This week as Rishabh Pant did a Virat Kohli, he raised millions of hopes that he would go on to emulate the India skipper.
Like Rishabh, Kohli too had overcome the loss of his father on the day of a first-class match and went on to play an important knock for Delhi in Ranji Trophy a decade back.
Those close to Rishabh say that the decision to rush to Bangalore was hard to make not only because of his father’s death but also because of his ailing mother.
His mother had undergone a major surgery just a few days back and Rishabh, while deciding whether to play the Bangalore game or skip it, eventually took the hard decision on his own.
Devender Sharma, who has coached him at Sonnet, and had attended the cremation, says, “His maternal grandfather took him aside and asked him if he wanted to play. He replied he’ll play.”
Sonnet head coach Tarak Sinha says, “I told him to go ahead and play. We encouraged him to play. What’s happened has happened, I told him.”
Rishabh had got the news late at night and then drove down to Roorkee from Delhi, reaching there in the morning. The morning after the day the last rites were performed, he started for Delhi at 8, then took a flight to Bangalore and attended the nets in the evening.
His franchise had given him the option to take time off. “We just didn’t have the courage to say anything to him, but we told him to take whatever time he wanted. After all, it is a huge loss in one’s life,” said DD’s Hemant Dua.
When Rishabh’s dad Rajendra had last visited the Sonnet Academy, where he practices, he was happy with the progress.
Rishabh and his parents had strived hard to get him into Delhi cricket’s top academy as Roorkee in Uttarakhand was a cricketing hinterland. And the role his mother played was exemplary.
Devender says, “We had a 45-day camp about 6-7 years back and while his dad, who dreamed of seeing him become a cricketer, introduced him to us, it was the mother who took charge in Delhi. The two stayed at the Moti Bagh Gurudwara as they had come from Roorkee and had no place to live.”
The mother served at the Gurudwara even as the son gave shape to his dad’s dreams. He played an U-12 tournament and hammered three tons to earn the player of the tournament award.
The club coaches soon got him into Air Force School in Delhi Cantt and there was no looking back as he made a name for himself in India U-19 colours and then captained Delhi.
“Ashish Nehra (himself a Sonnet product) had high regard for him whenever he’d come and bowl to him,” recalls Devender.