IPL 2024: Fans excited to see Rishabh back on field

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | March 23, 2024 IST

Rishabh Pant

Mullanpur, March 23: At the new Mullanpur stadium, when Rishabh Pant makes his long-awaited return to competitive cricket after 455 days, fans will be filled with immense excitement and jubilation. They will be delighted to witness the comeback of one of the most cheerful figures in the sport’s current era.

The return of Pant to competitive cricket, particularly following a life-threatening accident and multiple sustained injuries, including the reconstruction of his right knee ligaments, is a momentous occasion, as it is uncommon to witness athletes making a comeback after surviving and enduring such a grave and near-fatal ordeal.

Pant, in his post-accident state, continues to exude a glowing smile and cheerful demeanor. However, he now places more significance of living with gratitude in the present moment, savoring the small joys of life, and eagerly embracing the chance to play his beloved sport with renewed happiness. IANS had an exclusive conversation with three passionate Rishabh Pant fans regarding him taking a fresh guard in his cricketing career.

Ayan Mustafi – the heart warrior who got a wish from Pant on his birthday

“I am feeling happy and very excited about his return,” quips seven-year-old Ayan when asked about his thoughts on Pant’s comeback. Apart from his favourite player’s return to the field, Ayan’s interest lies in awaiting the order of a DC jersey which bears Rishabh’s name and number, which he later intends to wear to his school for early morning cricket practice.

“He was chubby and a natural left-handed batter and he started loving Pant from the time he was 3.5 years old, when the 2021 Gabba Test happened. He was watching that game with me and though he was too young to understand anything, I would tell him, ‘Rishabh Pant maar raha hai’ (Rishabh Pant is hitting boundaries).”

“It was one of those moments where Ayan was clapping and he started to take more interest in the way he batted. Pant made him interested in cricket and he just wanted to be like him,” recalls his father Suvajit Mustafi.

When that unfortunate accident happened with Pant on December 30, 2022, Suvajit recalls Ayan was extremely distraught. “Through somewhere, he managed to see the pictures and didn’t react as he was processing all of it. Over a period of time, he would ask questions of whether he would walk or play again, as it was definitely affecting him. I told him to keep praying to God, which he did.”

On February 27, 2023, Ayan turned six and Suvajit thought of posting his batting video on X, with an aim to put out a cheerful post and requested if Rishabh could send get a birthday wish. To the father-son duo’s surprise, Rishabh did send birthday wishes for Ayan by commenting, “Happy birthday Ayan . Have a great year (two happy and cake emojis).”

“I didn’t know it would go viral as Rishabh replied to him via X, then people started to comment on those posts and till date, I get notifications about that post. That reply from Rishabh meant a lot to him and he said ‘okay, it’s my birthday, I got a wish from him’. Some friends around him also started to say, ‘You got a birthday wish from Rishabh Pant!’.

“I was told by a friend that the post had been picked by many media houses. Ayan also started to realise that getting a birthday wish from Rishabh was a very pretty big deal. Later, Ayan asked whether Rishabh had written it and if he had called me. I told him, ‘When you grow up in life and be a cricketer like him, you will get to talk to him’,” recalled Suvajit.

Ayan has undergone many health interventions in his young life. He’s a heart patient with only two heart valves, unlike most people who have three valves. He has undergone three surgeries already, and at some point, he will need another operation to add that missing third valve.

“Ayan would say, ‘I was operated upon too and have taken to playing the sport. So, Rishabh bhaiya will also play the sport after he recovers’. He would ask during every DC game in IPL 2023 if Rishabh was playing and he was happy to see him be in stadium for DC-GT game at Delhi. His interest for Rishabh is so much that Spiderman is his favourite cartoon,” added Suvajit.

Ayan would keep track of Rishabh’s recovery when Suvajit showed him videos of him walking with ease and doing other things related to his recovery. Out of the blue, before sleeping in the night, Ayan would ask Suvajit, ‘Is Rishabh bhaiya practising now? Is he batting now?’

“Rishabh is more of an emotion for Ayan now. Through Rishabh, our son can dream of being a cricketer and though we don’t know if he will be one, all of this means a lot.”

“All doctors at Apollo Hospital in Mumbai, where his interventions were done, call Ayan ‘Miracle Baby’ and co-incidentally, Dr Dinshaw Pardiwala called Rishabh ‘Miracle Man’ in that video on bcci.tv. I was left surprised and thought ‘Another big co-incidence’,” adds Suvajit.

When Sourav Ganguly said last year that Rishabh could play IPL 2024, Suvajit put it in Ayan’s mind that he will play the tournament. “Whenever DC played WPL games this year, Ayan watched those games and even asked, ‘Is Rishabh bhaiya coming to watch these games in stadium?’”

“Whenever he plays with his friends, he says he’s Rishabh Pant and when Ayan’s birthday came this year, I showed him some bats and he picked an SG bat. I persuaded him to see other bats, considering their size, but he picked SG bat by saying, ‘Rishabh Pant plays with this bat too, so I will take this bat only’.

For now, the father-son duo are excited to see Rishabh play cricket again. “I am keeping my fingers crossed on his return to the game. What I feel is if he’s back in the Test team for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, and settled into the cricketing rhythm and the load around it, nothing greater than that.”

Luvpreet Singh – from being at the same camp with Pant to itching for seeing his return

In 2015, before the domestic season began, Luvpreet was playing for Delhi U16 team, and was at a camp in Feroz Shah Kotla when he saw Rishabh, who was in the Delhi U23 side. “By then, everyone in Delhi cricket circuit knew about him like, ‘Look, he’s that left-handed batter from Sonnet Club who plays attacking cricket’.”

“I was quite young at the camp and to be very honest, there are players in camps who get tensed about selection and I was one of them. Then, there are chilled people like Rishabh who just walk into nets and hit the bowlers out of park from first ball itself.”

“He spoke to boys of my batch who were from Sonnet Club. I remember Ayush Badoni was with me and he had a nice friendship with Rishabh that time. I talked to him about Rishabh and he said, ‘He’s a great guy to talk to,’ but I didn’t have the courage to talk to him,” recalls Luvpreet about his vivid memory of Pant.

As Pant rose through the ranks, starting from U19 World Cup to the 2021 Border-Gavaskar Trophy win at the Gabba, Luvpreet couldn’t continue playing the sport and now works as an engineer, but became an ardent follower of the wicketkeeper-batter. When the accident happened, Luvpreet initially thought it was fake news, but was left totally shaken over it coming true.

“I literally followed everything related to it for the next few days till he was flown to Mumbai from Dehradun and was operated upon at the Kokilaben Hospital. I closely followed Instagram accounts of him and Indian cricket team to keep tabs on his recovery updates.”

“The videos of where he posted that he was crutches-free and was walking on his own, as well as of the one where he batted for some time at a game in a function (of JSW on Independence Day) followed by keeping practice and running at full speed, I saw all of that and felt very heartening to see about his recovery progress,” he said.

When the official BCCI update came on Pant’s return being cleared as a wicketkeeper-batter on March 12, it brought immense joy and relief for Luvpreet. “There were reports on him being made to play as an impact player or be a specialist batter, which felt very off. But him returning as keeper-batter, I am definitely sure he will be much more mentally stronger and tougher, while itching to be out there on the field.”

“To be honest, I never thought he would recover in such a short span of time. Having been an athlete for a brief part in my life, I know how injuries can hurt you physically and mentally. I also saw the Miracle Man videos talking about his recovery and I was left very shocked over the details of his injuries from which he recovered completely. Just hats off to him for the kind of recovery he’s made to return to the game,” he adds.

Hours ahead of Pant’s return to competitive cricket, Luvpreet feels his comeback feels like a very personal triumph. “I have seen him bat right at the nets where I practised my bowling. To now see him on the verge of returning to the game after following every bit of his career and recovery, it feels very great and means a lot.”

“We should give him time to be at his best and he will be even better at playing than what he was before. I am now keeping an eye out for DC’s IPL 2024 games in Delhi and whenever tickets are up, I am going to buy them so that I can see Rishabh in action live.”

Ankit Kumar – the enthusiast who sees glimpses of Sehwag, Dhoni & Raina in Pant

The day Pant smashed that whirlwind 18-ball fifty against Nepal in 2016 U19 World Cup, Ankit wondered who this swashbuckling batter was. “When I saw that innings, I was like, ‘Who’s this guy playing in the style of Virender Sehwag?’. But then he continued scored runs in a heap.”

“When he peaked in IPL 2018 to become Emerging Player of that season, I felt ‘nah, he’s the player to follow from the next generation of cricketers’. I view Rishabh Pant as a mixture of my three favourite players in on and off field ways – Sehwag, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni and there was no looking back in being his fan,” recalls Ankit.

On the morning of that accident, Ankit saw a post on X which read as, ‘Get well soon Rishabh Pant’, and felt it was about him being rested from the white-ball series against Sri Lanka in January due to a niggle for which he was slated to go to National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru for healing process.

“I thought it was related to that he should get well soon in time for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in February-March. But when I scrolled the feed more, seeing those pictures of the car left me shocked and my mood was totally off for two-three days. The only thing I cared for was ‘he should be fine at any cost and rest will be seen later’.”

On August 15, 2023, Ankit stumbled upon a video of Pant batting at a JSW Independence Day function, prompting thoughts of his return to the game. “I began to feel like the old Rishabh Pant is coming back. I also regularly followed his social media posts to track his recovery, as many were making multiple assumptions on his layoff time, ranging from six months to two years.”

“Plus, when he was seated at the auction table in December last year, I started to feel that he will be back to playing soon in the tournament at a some stage. The willpower he’s shown in recovery and the ability to return back from any situation gives a lot of hope.”

The rush of excitement and happiness that Ankit feels on Pant’s comeback reminds him of the emotions he felt when Yuvraj Singh staged a remarkable comeback after battling cancer in 2012.

“That day, I was roaming all around saying, ‘Yuvraj is back, Yuvraj is back’. So, similar kind of excitement vibes I am getting for Pant’s return and I wish for him to take his time in building up his playing workload till the Border-Gavaskar Trophy arrives.” (IANS)

    Tags
  • Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)
  • Yuvraj Singh
  • Indian Premier League (IPL)
  • Delhi Capitals
  • Wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant
  • Punjab Kings
  • Punjab Kings
  • IPL 2024

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