Rishabh’s dedication leaves Delhi spellbound

Rishabh Pant may have finished on the losing side on Saturday, but he demonstrated the spirit and resolve of a champion. Two days after the demise of his father, 19-year-old Pant returned to IPL duty with Delhi Daredevils, smashing a rapid fifty that ultimately went in vain.

Rishabh Pant’s exit for 57 (36b, 3x4, 4x6) in the final over of the run chase signalled the end of Delhi's resistance.   -  PTI

Rishabh Pant may have finished on the losing side on Saturday, but he demonstrated the spirit and resolve of a champion. Two days after the demise of his father, 19-year-old Pant returned to IPL duty with Delhi Daredevils, smashing a rapid fifty that ultimately went in vain.

The left-hander’s exit for 57 (36b, 3x4, 4x6) in the final over of the run chase signalled the end of Delhi's resistance, as Royal Challengers Bangalore claimed a 15-run victory. Pant, who had waged a lone battle and kept his head even as wickets tumbled at the other end, took an age to walk back to the dugout after he was bowled by Pawan Negi, the anguish on his young face evident.

“Geez, I was telling the boys, if my dad passed away I would be on the first plane out of here,” the Delhi all-rounder Chris Morris said later.

“Have to be very honest. It’s about what my dad means to me. It takes a big person to come a couple of days after your father’s passed away and play. He said his dad would have wanted him playing. It shows his character. He’s going to be a big player for India in the future.”

Pant demonstrated his intentions very early, sending his first ball sailing over the leg side boundary. “The smallest guys hit it the longest—Warner, de Kock, Smith,” said Morris. “They’re all not big but strong, they know their areas. He’s a special talent. I said to the boys on the bench that it would nice to see him hit it big tonight, much before he faced his first ball. Every couple of years, a special guy comes along. He’s one of them.”

It was a day for the little-built men. Before Pant's efforts, Kedar Jadhav had top-scored for RCB, making a 37-ball-69. It was an innings laced with powerful swats over long-on and fierce inside-out drives, belying the Maharashtra batsman's small frame. Unorthodox and strong, Morris called him. "Ever since I started playing first-class cricket 10 years ago, I've been trying all the shots,” Jadhav said. “I expect all the deliveries and keep my options open. I just react to whatever ball comes, because I can play almost all the shots."

The 32-year-old played only four games last season, before losing his spot to K.L. Rahul. He had used the time off, Jadhav revealed, to work on his fitness with RCB's strength and conditioning coach Shankar Basu. “It has definitely transformed my game,” he said. “I am feeling much stronger and fitter. I have lost seven kilos, so I'm able to move faster automatically. Fitness is such a thing where if you just look into the mirror you feel confident.”