New Delhi: It happened in Bristol 18 years ago during a one day game. One saw how an emotional Sachin Tendulkar looked heavenwards after his hundred in a World Cup match against Kenya. That iconic moment was just days after he had lost his father Ramesh and his mother Rajni had not allowed him to grieve the loss. Nobody has forgotten it. Something similar happened closer home in Delhi in 2007 during a Ranji Trophy game. A few witnessed it and lot many heard what is now a part of Indian cricket’s folklore. Virat Kohli lost his father, Prem, during a Ranji Trophy game against Karnataka at midnight. Delhi was in doldrums and Virat made 97, saved his team and performed his father’s last rites in the evening. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Delhi Daredevils, IPL 2017, Match 5 at Bengaluru
Something similar happened again on Saturday night in Bengaluru. Everyone saw it but very few knew what went through Rishabh Pant‘s mind. One still doesn’t know how Rishabh’s career will pan out after a decade but if it comes to strength of character, he showed that he is at par with Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli. It’s not easy for a teenager to lose his father, perform the last rites and then join the humdrum of a high octane T20 game.
He loves to chuckle, laugh and joke. But on Saturday night there was a stone faced ‘Man Boy’ at the crease for Delhi Daredevils in an IPL match against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Life had changed in 48 hours for the youngster. He tonked Iqbal Abdullah for a six over the cow corner. It was exhilarating stuff but what was he thinking? Just the target which is finite or something beyond it? FULL CRICKET UPDATES: Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Delhi Daredevils, IPL 2017, Match 5 at Bengaluru
When he pulled Tymal Mills’ slow bouncer for a six, it wasn’t just a cricket shot, it was something beyond that. It wasn’t just the bowler at the end of 22 yards, he was dealing with. He was dealing with grief and irreparable loss. Another six over deep mid-wicket and the mind would ask how is he even maintaining that Zen like calm in a packed stadium?
And what was that man wearing lavender coloured training Jersey sitting in that Delhi dugout thinking? Well, Rahul Dravid was at the other end when Tendulkar came out to bat that morning in Bristol. On Sunday, he was again present at the ground as Rishabh’s coach. Did he tell Rishabh about how Tendulkar had coped with tragedy on that day? Nobody knows. Rishabh Pant: I began playing cricket because of my dad
There was a fleeting moment when a lapse in concentration saw Rishabh offer a return catch which Yuzvendra Chahal dropped. Who cares? Self proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle was out there but the real Universe Boss had his script ready. The 50 wasn’t celebrated. The job wasn’t finished yet. Mills bowled a slow bouncer and he hooked it behind square for a six.
But it wasn’t just about cricket. It was way beyond that. Alas, it didn’t happen. Pawan Negi bowled him round the legs. He couldn’t believe it. As he trudged back slowly, it was difficult to make out if tears were mixed in the beads of sweat. But in defeat Rishabh Pant was a hero. He will perhaps score a better 57 than the one he managed last night but this will remain an emotional innings.
At the end, in the hard-core world of franchise cricket, result didn’t matter for those who were high on emotional quotient. No wonder CLR James had written those iconic lines so many years back. “What do they know of Cricket who only Cricket Know”.