At some point, during the one-sided DC vs GT match, when you turn towards the balcony of the Hospitality enclosure, you’re stuck – like everyone else. Rishabh Pant is in the house.
And it appears, all eyes are looking up at him. There is awe in these eyes. There is a deep desire in these eyes – to engage, touch, and be one with Pant.
An extension of these eyes are the phones. They share the same desire as the eyes. Mostly these are fully grown men who have shrunk both in age and behaviour. Some are addressing him as Rishabh, some as sir, some as you; they are wishing him well, and asking the same questions, “When will you be back, sir?” “How’re you feeling, Rishabh?” “Come back soon, Rishabh!” “We miss you!” Pant is in a gold tinted Ray Bans, t-shirt and shorts, with a brace on one knee, standing as a King does, or the Pope, on a balcony, addressing his loyal subjects.
I’m walking towards these camera eyes that are flashing at Rishabh Pant. I cannot bring myself to pull my phone out. It seems too commonplace an act. I look at him and feel a deep sadness for the boy. The questions keep coming at him. Pant keeps replying, he even puts a vague timeline for his return in months. His strapped fingers though have no answers and pretty much have that, ‘Upar wallah jane’ gesture.
Alongside Pant is the DC owner, Parth Jindal, beaming. There are others alongside, also beaming. There is a match on but Pant is the catch of the day. And his proud sponsors are the Delhi Capitals.
By now the officials are appearing and by Pant’s side. BCCI VP, Rajiv Shukla pulls Pant’s cheeks. BCCI secretary, Jay Shah is by Pant’s side. Everyone is talking animatedly to Pant.
By the look of it, this makes for more compelling viewing than DC’s humdrum batting. The match producers have honed in on this fact – the telecast seems to cut to Pant on the balcony more often than to the ads in between overs.
While watching from behind the third-man boundary, it isn’t uncommon to see heads pop up in Pant’s direction – as if to make sure, he’s still there. Pant is. He is there for the full duration of the match, a little much to endure while going through an arduous rehab – arduous more so because of the spineless DC display.
But Pant appears to be in fine spirits. He seems to be chirping as much as he does from behind the stumps. When that familiar voice answers familiar questions, it’s as if he never left the sport. And is just doing another post-match.
While this was Pant’s first appearance at a match after his accident, this does beg the question – how much should he be put through? Was this appearance in consultation with the medics? Does this aid or harm his rehab?
As David Miller rips into the DC bowling, and the crowds start to pull away, they are slowed down – that one last look at Rishabh Pant for the night. He was there. As were we.
Somewhere there, every cricket fan present was probably thankful to see him.
Even though the accident occurred a little more than four months back, seeing Pant in the flesh, makes its devastating impact on the boy and his cricket, far more real. Aided by crutches for support, the somersaulting, singing “Spiderman” seems a far cry away.
With Pant, probably even more than with most in cricket, nothing is a given. Not how he will play the first ball he takes a strike to, not how he will reply when asked a question. Yet that evening, Pant was far more predictable. While everyone wanted a piece of Pant, the cricketer himself, seemed to want a piece of everyone.
But then, isn’t that what draws a performer such as Pant? The extrovert had finally come to his home away from home, the Kotla grounds.
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