Keeping wickets and a cover drive: Rishabh Pantmakes statements on comeback

Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant. Source (X)

Not every comeback story has a fairy-tale start. Rishabh Pant’s did not. His team lost and his return from a life-threatening car accident lasted 13 balls. The Delhi Capitals skipper tried almost as many things during that brief stay,before lobbing a catch to short third while trying to go over that fielder.

The surprise came after that, when Pant walked out with his team after the innings break donning the big gloves. Despite the National Cricket Academy declaration stating he was fit to bat and keep wickets, it was not clear whether his franchise would immediately have him behind the stumps.

Shai Hope, Tristan Stubbs and Ricky Bhuiin the XI increased those doubts. Impact Player Avishek Porel, who replaced Bhui, is also a wicketkeeper. By eventually taking up this responsibility, effecting a stumping and taking a catch, Pant made a statement that his body is ready. The constant chirping suggested the mind is in good state too.

This IPL is a protracted fitness test for Pant before the T20 World Cup. His ability is known and it’s understood that it might take a few games for him to sharpen his skills and get back into the playing groove. Whether his limbs have recovered enough for international cricket is the question.

While that will be answered after a few more outings, the first big match at the new stadium at Mullanpur in the outskirts of Chandigarh was an opportunity to see Pant the batter back at the crease. The stage was just right for him when he walked in at 74-2 after eight overs.

In his own words, a day before thisIPL 2024 match against Punjab Kings, Pant was ‘jittery, nervous and excited’. He looked like that in the middle. The trademark smile was there alright, but while taking those extra few seconds before facing the first ball, his movements betrayed nerves.

Pant was eager to put bat to ball, get off the mark and more. He stretched and patted one wide outside off to point. The second ballfrom left-arm spinner Harpreet Brar was on off stump and he tucked it on the leg side for a single. He stepped out to the third ball and turned it towards leg.


His intentions and impetuosity became clear on the fourth delivery. He tried the heave which makes him famous without making contact. The next one was reverse-swept, but the connection was not perfect. Moments later, Rahul Chahar pitched short and Pant’s eyes lit up. But his swing found Harshal Patel at deep mid-wicket who missed the catch and the ball, which went for four.

The second ball of the next over bowled by Harshal was what Pant and his fans had been waiting for. Not a ball in the slot to drive, but the fully controlled and technically perfect cover drive. The batter held his pose for a few seconds after making contact, as the ball raced along the groundfor four.

The good feeling lasted just two balls, the second of which was short on the off and Pant’s attempt to work it over slip led to his downfall. It’s a shot he has played successfully numerous times. Today, the lack of pace deceived him and he trudged back furious with himself.

However, small gains matter in moments like these. For Pant, it should be that cover drive. From the time he walked in, an urge to make things happen was evident in everything he tried. Reaching wide outside off, stepping out, attempting heaves, reverse sweep — he was putting in a lot of effort.

Yet, the best was the one played with minimum effort. There are shots which give batters satisfaction. How many come off it doesn’t matter. For Pant, that was the takeaway on comeback. It showed that his touch has not deserted him. He will replay that in his mind before the next game.

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