When the dust has settled, Suresh Raina will likely remember the hiding his team received at the hands of a young Delhi batsman. And Rishabh Pant, will certainly remember the 97 runs he scored – and the first man who came up to congratulate and console him. © BCCI

When the dust has settled, Suresh Raina will likely remember the hiding his team received at the hands of a young Delhi batsman. And Rishabh Pant will certainly remember the 97 runs he scored – and the first man who came up to congratulate and console him. © BCCI

Every edition of the Indian Premier League, there’s a little pattern on evidence. Coaches, all former cricketers themselves, and visiting cricketers talk up this or that rookie or second-tier or up-and-coming Indian cricketer to high heavens.

Examples? Allan Donald and Ashok Dinda, that’s one. “Of all the Indian bowlers I have seen, he is right up there,” Donald said about Dinda, then part of Pune Warriors India, of which the South African was the bowling coach. Donald even said the younger man reminded him of himself. I know there weren’t very many videos around when Donald started out, but did he never watch himself bowl? This is not to say that Dinda is a bad bowler – not at all. His domestic numbers are excellent, and he is a workhorse, willing to give it his all day after day. That’s the good part. The not-so-good part is common knowledge.

Now, there is no reason to believe that folks like Donald or Warne, or even Billings, say these things only to please their franchise bosses or Indian fan-bases. These men have seen enough cricket and cricketers to know when they see something special. But one wonders … what to make of the frequency of these bombastic utterances? Personally, I wonder if quieter words wouldn’t be better, even the unsaid.

Then Shane Warne’s ‘Tornado’ – Kamran Khan. How many times have you heard it being said about a young Indian cricketer that he is “one for the future”, an “Indian cricket star in the making”? Sometimes the words prove prophetic; often not.

There’s no doubt that Rishabh Pant is one for the future, a supremely talented hitter of the cricket ball with a temperament to match and numbers to back up any big talk. Of him, Sam Billings said the other day, “Without doubt the best young player I have ever seen”.

Now, there is no reason to believe that folks like Donald or Warne, or even Billings, say these things only to please their franchise bosses or Indian fan-bases. These men have seen enough cricket and cricketers to know when they see something special. But one wonders … what to make of the frequency of these bombastic utterances?

Personally, I wonder if quieter words wouldn’t be better, even the unsaid. The stuff that makes a young man feel a bit special, even respected, without putting it out there that he is the biggest thing since Pork Vindaloo. Like Suresh Raina’s gesture to Pant after he had fallen on 97 in Delhi Daredevils’ chase of 209 against Raina’s Gujarat Lions a few days ago. Pant had, in Sanju Samson’s company, managed to take Delhi to 179 in a chase of 209 with enough and more overs left. Then he went for one big hit too many and nicked behind off Basil Thampi, another young man who has been talked up a fair bit these last few days.

Andrew Flintoff consoles Brett Lee. © Getty Images

Andrew Flintoff could well have said, “It’s one-all now, you Aussie bastard” in Brett Lee’s ear at the end of that Edgbaston Test in 2005, but in all likelihood he didn’t. © AFP © Getty Images

He was distraught, understandably. He had been playing like a dream (IPL-wise) till then, as ‘in the zone’ as a batsman can get. Thampi, after a pat on Pant’s back, joined the other Gujarat boys to celebrate, but Raina broke away to go towards Pant, who seemed to be tearing up. There was a pat or two, and Raina even seemed to wipe Pant’s tears through the helmet grille. Perhaps the young man felt at least marginally better as he walked off.

These things matter – the moment or two taken out to appreciate the opponent, the walking up to another player. It’s called respect. You see it in cricket from time to time. Not often enough for my liking, though.

There was a pat or two, and Raina even seemed to wipe Pant’s tears through the helmet grille. Perhaps the young man felt at least marginally better as he walked off. These things matter – the moment or two taken out to appreciate the opponent, the walking up to another player. It’s called respect. You see it in cricket from time to time. Not often enough for my liking, though.

Who knows, perhaps Pant reminds Raina a little bit of himself? Back in the 2004 Under-19 World Cup, when Shikhar Dhawan was racking up all the big numbers, Raina had a relatively quiet time, even though he did get the good score here and there. But there was one match, which I was privileged to be groundside to, where he smashed 90 in just 38 balls. It was only Scotland, the opponents, one may argue, but that many from those few takes some doing.

Pant is an Under-19er from 2016, and has built a reputation as a big, clean hitter. Exactly as Raina did all those years ago. Since then, through 18 Tests, 223 One-Day Internationals, and 65 Twenty20 Internationals, Raina has built something of a name for himself. Especially in the 50-over game. But – let’s be honest – when you think ‘Raina’, it’s the blade swinging with the yellow of his Chennai Super Kings jersey in the background that comes to mind, right? That’s just how it is. Possibly the greatest IPL batsman ever. And off the top tier at the highest level.

It’s also a cautionary tale for Pant. One can be sure that his leaders at Delhi, Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan, are telling him that. Meanwhile, a ‘well done’ and a ‘don’t worry, there will be a next time’ from a senior like Raina could go a long way.

When Pant got out, the match might have swung away from Delhi, even though the target was just a few biggies out. These days, you’d ordinarily expect the bowler and the fielders to hurl a volley of cusswords at the youngster – that’s just become the norm, and I’ll never for the life of me understand how it helps. The batsman is out. Let him go. Is it just letting the steam out? Showmanship? Anyhow, there was none of it this time.

© Getty Images

“Two gentlemen fought each other. Anthony was better today. He got up, he fought back and he won the title,” said Wladimir Klitschko after being beaten by Anthony Joshua the other night at Wembley. © Getty Images

Andrew Flintoff could well have said, “It’s one-all now, you Aussie bastard” in Brett Lee’s ear at the end of that Edgbaston Test in 2005. But, in all likelihood, he didn’t, and the words have changed over time to make it a better story. Grant Elliott most certainly didn’t have anything but words of consolation when putting his hand out to pick Dale Steyn off the pitch at the end of that 2015 World Cup semifinal. Out in football, any fan will remember how Oliver Kahn, about as hard-edged a competitor as you’d ever find, walked away from his celebrating mates after Bayern Munich had won the 2001 Champions League title in a shootout to go sit with an inconsolable Santiago Canizares, the beaten Valencia keeper, and hug him and whisper a few words.

When the dust has settled, there are memories beyond the winning and the losing. Some years later, Raina will likely remember the hiding his team received at the hands of a young Delhi batsman and shake his head. That young batsman, Pant, will certainly remember the 97 runs he scored – and the first man who came up to congratulate and console him.

These are the moments of repeat YouTube watches, stuff of riveting playlists. When the dust has settled, there are memories beyond the winning and the losing. Some years later, Raina will likely remember the hiding his team received at the hands of a young Delhi batsman and shake his head. That young batsman, Pant, will certainly remember the 97 runs he scored – and the first man who came up to congratulate and console him.

If you think about it, sport is about many things – a microcosm of life, and all that – but deep down, really deep down, it’s about respect.

It’s what we saw in the words of Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko after the fight the other night at Wembley. “As boxing states, you leave your ego at the door and you respect your opponent. So a massive shout out to Wladimir Klitschko. In terms of the boxing hall of fame, he’s a role model in and out of the ring and I’ve got massive love and respect to anyone who steps in the ring,” said Joshua, the victor. For his part, the vanquished Klitschko said, “Two gentlemen fought each other. Anthony was better today. He got up, he fought back and he won the title.”

Respect. It’s what defines the greatest of rivalries in modern-day sport: Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal.

And if I may say so, it’s what makes sport sport.