© BCCI
Rishabh Pant played a blistering knock of 97 off 43 © BCCI

Rishabh Pant‘s bottom hand came off and thus he lost control over the shot. He did not look back. He knew he had induced a thick edge to Dinesh Karthik. Standing cross-legged, not moving an inch, Pant put his left hand on his hips and murmured a few words in disgust. He did not want to leave. You could tell by the look on his face.

Suresh Raina, the opposition captain, walked up to the teenager and consoled him for his stroke of misfortune. If anything, there was immense adulation and respect in Raina’s gesture. In fact, who better than Raina could empathise Pant’s disappointment?

Raina and Pant both scored half-centuries and both faced 43 deliveries when they were dismissed. Raina had compiled 77 runs off them, while Pant scored 20 more runs and that too while chasing, a situation far, far challenging than Raina’s.

Pant looked disoriented as he walked back. He did not even raise his bat to acknowledge the crowd. Despite that, the spectators at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium stood in admiration and applauded the fallen man who needed a mere 3 to become the youngest centurion in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017.

Thanks to Pant’s exploits that Delhi Daredevils needed only 30 off 33. They sealed the deal with 15 balls remaining. All the same, there was more to Pant’s disappointment that it appears.

Before Delhi Daredevils’ opening contest, Pant had grieved his father’s demise. That, though, did not distract him from doing what he does the best. After performing the last rites, the professional Pant joined Delhi Daredevils back.

Fortunate was Pant that his teammates offered helped in the moment of grief. “The whole team will rally around Rishabh and give him support. He is a young man. It is very, very difficult, particularly when this happens in the family,” Paddy Upton, Delhi Daredevils coach, had toldmedia..

Enter match day. Delhi Daredevils were staring down the barrel when Pant came out to bat, against Royal Challengers Bangalore. The scorecard read 55 for 3 in 7.3 overs. They needed another 103 runs. Sanju Samson, at the other end, was going great guns, but he managed only 12, leaving Pant with Chris Morris and Carlos Brathwaite. Even so, Delhi Daredevils went further downhill. Morris and Brathwaite added 5 runs combined, leaving Pant stranded in a sinking ship.

Regardless, Pant remained unaffected by setbacks. Others faltered, but Pant exhibited marvellous show of character and scored a half-century off 34 balls, taking Delhi Daredevils closer to the target. But as fate would have it, Pant was cleaned up for 57. Eventually, Delhi Daredevils fell short by 15 runs.

Pant’s efforts may have gone in vain, but Yuvraj Singh and Harsha Bhogle tweeted a few words of appreciation.

After nearly a month’s time including a few fiery cameos, Pant found himself in a similar situation. This time, his team was racing against time, to stay in contention for playoffs.

Gujarat Lions posted a gigantic 208 for 7, thanks to Suresh Raina’s 43-ball 77. In reply, Delhi Daredevils lost captain Karun Nair for 12. Pant, who had batted lower down the order, was promoted to No. 3.

Bhaiya, zyada socho mat, bas marte raho‘ [Brother, don’t think much, just keep hitting],” Pant told Samson, as stated by the latter in an exclusive interview with iplt20.com.

This reflected his approach. He took only 2 balls to register his first six. He peppered a short, slower ball flat over the extra-cover. In the next over, he collected three consecutive boundaries off Pradeep Sangwan. The first was a near reminiscence of a Nataraja shot, with the front foot in the air and hip moved across. The second was a pure, modern-day slog over wide-long. The third was a late scythe to the right of short third-man.

His first four boundaries were in four different directions: cover, fine-leg, long-on, third-man.

**

“If the ball is there to be hit, just hit it. Don’t think about the next ball, and if the next ball is there to be hit again, then hit it again,” said Pant explaining his brand of cricket.

Come to think of it, the belligerence in his batting is, more or less, calculated. He does not play pre-mediated strokes. He instead reads the length before the ball is pitched. After accessing that, he decides the swing of his back-lift. If it is in the slot, his bat ends up dangling it onto his hips. And if he is cramped for room, he manoeuvres it with his rubbery wrists.

An amalgamation of power and finesse, Pant, in all probability, is a reservoir of talent.

**

The gala continued without any change in script. He dispatched any line and length without getting caught in two minds. He played a wild heave without considering his personal milestone. “It was really impressive for me as well, as Rishabh batting on 97 and not thinking about his hundred at that stage,” said a proud mentor in Rahul Dravid.

Despite all this, a peerless innings at a crucial juncture, Pant went off the field with his head held down. He thought it was not enough, but Sachin Tendulkar thought otherwise.

Amidst a moment of grief, Pant rose above all and to his best. And come to think of it, even Tendulkar had once used the game of cricket to handle his father’s demise and made his suffering less perturbing.

Rishabh Pant, a daring new vision…