On December 30, 2022, Rishabh Pant could see his entire life unfurl in front of him, and for the first time in his 24-year-old life, he had a feeling that everything was coming to an end after a life-threatening car crash.
"First time in my life I had that feeling of letting it go. I felt my time in this world was over," Pant told Star Sports on their show titled Believe: To Death and Back.
"It was the first time I had such a feeling in life. At the time of the accident, I was aware of the wounds, but I was lucky as it could have been even more serious,” he added.
Someone who has been active and athletic in his entire life was now restricted to the bed, with his family helping him around with day-to-day activities.
"For 30 days, I was bedridden. I couldn't move. The friction burns were extreme and initially when I was trying to walk, I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to resume walking/running in a normal way. I needed a lot of help in the early stages. Image Courtesy: PTI
“Just to stand up, three to four people had to help me around. Since my childhood, I'm used to running around and doing my things on my own. So, this feeling was disturbing for me and I felt disrespectful to myself as to how anyone can be so helpless."
"Till the time I start playing cricket, I don't want to plan much for the future. I asked the doctor how long it would take for me to recover. I told him that everybody is speaking different things, but you will give me the most clarity about it. He said it would take 16 to 18 months. I told the doctor that whatever timeline he gave me, I would reduce six months from it."
While the doctors did tell Pant that he was ‘lucky’ to come through without a major life risk, the left-handed batter recalls how he had to request someone to get his knee back in its place just minutes after the accident.
"Doctors also said that there was no fracture after the accident. Yes, my knee injury was major, but this could have been so big, that none of us can know. They always tell me I am lucky. Of course, it was such a horrific accident, the individual feels bad that this happened to me. How can I be lucky? But the other side is that despite the crash, I was alive."
"There was someone around so I asked if he could help getting the leg back in the position. He helped the knee get back in place."
Pant, who until the IPL 2022 season was leading the Delhi Capitals side, was forced to watch his team falter from the sidelines. Only when he was terribly stressed and worked up about his franchise’s progress in the season did he realise he had to cut down on watching the sport that he dearly loves.
"I tried not to watch cricket a lot. I realised that what the coaches say is true, that it is tough to just watch from the outside. Because the IPL was on, Delhi was playing and I wasn't feeling good. I felt we could have done a lot of things differently. I wanted to discuss things with them but then I realised that I'm outside the team. When you're inside the team, things are different,” Pant recalled.
However, Pant’s love for cricket meant that he couldn’t be away from the television screens for a long time, with his firm focus on the riveting Ashes series. The series was yet another reminder to the world of England’s new Bazball-style gameplay. But for Pant, it was the only way he knew how to play cricket.
"I realised I was getting stressed and understood that I had to cut down on watching cricket. I did watch the Ashes later on, had a lot of fun as I loved England's new way of playing cricket. It was anyway my style of playing,” he added.
During Pant’s formative years in the national team, there was a lot of focus on his wicketkeeping, and often, comparisons were drawn between him and the legendary MS Dhoni. But at that point, the left-hander had only made his debut for the national team, and the comparisons began when he was only five games into the national team.
"I never understood this comparison (with Dhoni) because one player had barely played five games and the other had played 500 games. The comparison made no sense at all. I used to go back in my room and cry. I felt a lot of pressure and wondered how I'll manage. Then I missed that stumping in Mohali and the crowd started to chant 'Dhoni! Dhoni!'. It was tough,” Pant recalled on the comparisons with Dhoni.
Pant, though, has always maintained a healthy relationship with Dhoni, who continues to play in the Indian Premier League for the Chennai Super Kings. The 26-year-old recalls his conversation with Dhoni, where the left-hander spoke about how the pressure of playing for the national team took a toll on his wicketkeeping.
"I always find it difficult to explain my relationship with him (MS Dhoni). I could share anything and everything with him. Even those things that I'd normally not share with anyone else. Once during training, I told him that I am able to keep flawlessly during IPL games but when it comes to international games, I fumble or make mistakes,” Pant remembered.
“I asked him for advice and he just told me casually to keep the same mentality like for an international game. As if it was that easy and I told him that 'Bhaiyya, you are a legend, I'm just starting' (laughs). I sometimes joke with him that, 'you became a legend and left all the pressure on me, that's unfair'' (laughs again).”
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