On 8th April 2017, the world witnessed a kid’s coming of age. Word had been going around that Rishabh Pant would be a player to watch out for the future. Earlier this season, he set the domestic stage alight as he amassed 972 runs at a frenetic pace. Expectations were high as IPL 2017 neared. Then, tragedy struck. Three days before his first IPL match of this season, his father passed away in his sleep. Pant returned two days later.
Occasionally, tragedy can trigger phenomenal performances on the field, and after Saturday, Rishabh Pant’s reputation has grown manifold. He already garnered respect from all quarters for just turning up for the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore. He then went on to win the admiration of those who tuned in. Pant faced up against a charged-up Bengaluru bowling attack. Wickets had tumbled at the other end and on his shoulders rested his team’s hopes. Tymal Mills came charging in and bowled as fast as he could only to see Pant calmly hook him for a six. Stanlake had proved too hot to handle for Karun Nair but Pant dealt him with ease as he gently nudged and flicked Stanlake with panache.
When RCB turned to spin, Pant treated them with total disdain. Chahal’s tricks had no effect on him while it confounded the lesser batsmen. Iqbal Abdulla’s figures were destroyed as Pant kept smashing him every time he bowled a delivery in Rishabh’s arc. For someone who is just twenty years old, Pant showed remarkable game awareness to single-handedly keep Delhi afloat. As long as he was at the crease, Delhi had a chance.
It seemed like he had been destined to play an innings as good as this on his first game back. He was unfazed and remained composed until the last over. Pant himself showed very little emotion on reaching the landmark. Soon enough, comparisons with how Sachin and Kohli had coped with a similar tragedy started doing the rounds.
It was hard to disagree with those comparisons. It was hard not to root for him. It was hard not to will him on. It was hard not to see him finish on the winning side. As he made his long walk back after being dismissed, it was hard not to feel like putting your arm around him.
For the second time in the week, Rishabh Pant must have felt the world was crashing around him. For the second time in the week, he must have felt that life is not fair. He need not worry. He has proved what he is made of. This match will soon be forgotten. This loss will be just another addition to the never-ending list of defeats Delhi Daredevils had snatched from the jaws of victory. But in years to come, the first thing I will remember from IPL 2017 is Rishabh Pant launching the first ball he faced into the crowd. A statement was made.