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HomeNewsExclusive: 'Doctors spoke to me about amputation' - Pant

Exclusive: ‘Doctors spoke to me about amputation’ – Pant

NEW DELHI:

Rishabh Pant

’s agonizing road to recovery after the gruesome

car accident

on Dec 30, 2022 reached a happy conclusion on Monday when the Indian cricket board (

BCCI

) announced he was fit to play this year’s IPL as a wicketkeeper-batter.
He was packing his bags to leave for Vizag to join the Delhi Capitals camp when the announcement was made. On his way to the airport, he spoke to TOI and his child-like excitement lit up the ride.

He wears the scar of 120 stitches, running across his temple to the left eyebrow, with a smile. But Tuesday was more about relief and pride.

Excerpts from the conversation…

Your first reaction to BCCI’s announcement…
Amazing feeling. This was the thing we were waiting for. It’s been so long. I think you can still cope with a layoff of three to six months. But when it goes beyond that, it starts taking a toll. I just want to go out there and play and have fun. Not thinking about the future too much, because (then) you put too much pressure on yourself. Looking forward to each day as it comes.
How would you describe your battle over the last 14 months?

It wasn’t just a physical battle for me. I decided to have a blast because when you are on the road while playing, you have to be eating in a certain way to be in a certain physical shape. I had planned it in my mind how I had to go forward and I had absolute clarity about it. For the first few months, I was enjoying myself when it came to food because that was the only thing that kept me sane. I was so frustrated that I thought I can’t deny myself a good meal. There was nothing much I could have done. But later on, I started working very hard on my fitness and nutrition. We now have a dedicated team looking after my nutrition. I gave myself about three months of intense workout. I know I am strongly built to endure that. I just had to get rid of a little bit of extra weight and nutrition played a key role in that.

Pant-gfx-3

Was there any anxiety as you came closer to regaining full fitness?
I was anxious waiting to be declared fit. I was trying to get fit before the Test series against England. BCCI and NCA were very helpful. BCCI secretary Jay Shah took personal interest. They didn’t want to rush me to the longest format. They slowly built up the workload. That was the best part of the recovery. You have to appreciate if someone takes care of you like that. They suggested that I start with T20s and then increase the workload.
You missed the World Cup at home…
It was very upsetting. We discussed with the NCA team that we will take a shot at the World Cup. All of us tried 200 per cent. But my knee couldn’t take the load. That was where I started pushing myself more. When you start giving yourself shorter goals, that helps in pushing yourself. It’s like building a good Test innings.
Spending a year at the NCA must have been agonising…
Mostly, I had conversations with VVS Laxman (NCA head) about life in general. There was so much frustration. I used to be frustrated even if someone tried speaking with me. Sometimes, you take it out on people without any fault of theirs. NCA helped me deal with that as time passed by. There were certain gestures that were very important. For example, I wanted to stay at a house instead of a hotel room in Bengaluru. They accommodated that. These small
gestures made a lot of difference.

How important was the close circle?
Having a tight circle is important. But there are some journeys that you need to take all by yourself. You need to trust yourself most of the time. When you have such a setback, you need to give yourself space and time. I was in a bit of isolation. I knew I had to figure out a way.
Did you consciously try deleting the incident from your mind?
Even if I want to, I can’t delete that incident. I tried not thinking or regretting it too much so that it didn’t upset me all the time. I tried to keep it light. I focused on what I could do from that point to improve myself.

Pant-gfx-2

How much have you changed as a human being?
I wanted to retain my identity. I never felt like I had to change drastically. You want to add things that help you. Gratitude towards life has increased a lot. You start appreciating small things about life.
When you could barely walk, you fought a lot for your club Sonnett Club when they were being displaced…
I love my club from the bottom of my heart. I couldn’t even think of not standing up for my club. The way they took care of me when I came from Roorkee. Late Tarak Sinha sir was a father figure. Devender Sharma is like my elder brother. I spent a lot of time last night with him.
Do you think you have become spiritual as well?
You become more disciplined if you are spiritual. It’s a personal choice. It helped me concentrate on myself. When my accident happened, I felt something spiritual saved me. With the kind of accident I had, I only got my knee injured but I can’t even imagine how much worse it could have been. Doctors even spoke to me about amputation. I always thought about God. This has given a different view altogether. I know someone is watching over me.

Pant-gfx-1

Best piece of advice or anything that you read…
There are so many things that stuck with me. I can’t point out one. Life is an accumulation of experiences. Only one thing can’t define your entire life. Life is a journey and you need to embrace what’s coming towards you without planning about the future too much. It won’t be fair to name anyone in particular because a lot of people reached out to me. But I want to thank the government authorities, Uttarakhand government, doctors, police officials and the ones who rescued me at the accident site.
What about social media…
Staying away from social media helped a lot. The way the world is moving with social media, it’s difficult to think straight all the time. If you start thinking about everything, you won’t be able to process anything. I used to log in once in a while but it was very limited because exposure to so much info about me could have blasted my head. What stood out was the kind of love people gave me and the blessings that poured in. That motivated me to strive harder. Blessings are always helpful. A year ago, people were discussing I may never play again or it will take two years at least.

Did you watch India play all games?
I won’t say I watched every match. Because when you miss something so much, you need to give yourself space from that. I have been playing cricket all my life. I haven’t thought about anything else. Watching them play was temptation but I didn’t want that to play with my mind. I used to watch the matches once in a while when I used to be done with my routine.
You were probably playing your best cricket when the accident happened…
I was sad because I was going through a very good time. But I had to ensure I didn’t pity myself. That’s how I was keeping myself sane. I don’t want to think that I am taking a fresh guard or I am making my debut all over again or I just had a break. I just want to feel how it is to be on the ground again. I need that feeling from within that I am just continuing with my career.

Pant-gfx-4

Did you ever play a match in your mind?
(Laughs) Honestly, I indeed thought of it. It’s been over a year since I played. I tried to think of every kind of possibility. But then, I do it every day anyway.
There’s a lot of buzz about your comeback in the IPL and then there’s the T20 World Cup after that…
We will see when we get to March 23 (Delhi Capitals’ first match). I also don’t know how to react. I don’t know what kind of feeling it will be. I am trying to enjoy this. I don’t want to stress too much. I try not to get too much ahead of myself but I do think about the possibilities — both positive and negative. I try to filter that and keep working with a positive mindset. I love my fans and I can’t deny the concern they have shown for me. I felt I was family to everyone. When I used to travel, I met people at airports. I was made to feel so comfortable. All the ‘didis’ who work at the airport, they would ask, ‘Beta, aap theek ho na (son, are you doing well)?’ I can’t express the emotion when I received this kind of love.