Rishabh Pant On GQ India’s June-July 2024 Cover

Rishabh Pant On GQ India’s June-July 2024 Cover

Rishabh Pant

Rishabh Pant pauses for a couple of seconds as his left knee braces to carry his body weight up a set of stairs on the set of GQ India’s June-July 2024 cover shoot. It’s a movement no one would usually notice—except that the person we’re describing is star cricketer Rishabh Pant, who’s been to hell and back since 30 December 2022 when he suffered a horrific accident near Roorkee on the Delhi–Dehradun expressway. The 26-year-old has undergone knee ligament surgery as well as plastic surgery after being left with facial injuries following the collision, which in his own words left him wondering if he would ever walk, or forget playing cricket. Just 18 months after a life-threatening car accident, the star cricketer has made the most improbable comeback.

Pant on his life-altering accident and first reaction:

“At that moment, my first thought was ‘I’m dead’. That was my first reaction. I accepted that I was about to die. There’s no chance that I’m going to survive this. Everything hurt, it was all a blur. I don’t know why, but generally when you get hurt or hit by something, you try to save your head, right? Your natural reaction is to put your hands around your head. I did the same thing and that’s probably what helped me negate serious head injuries. I got hurt, badly, but it could have been worse.”

Pant on the physical and mental grind of his injury:

“The most difficult part of the rehab and recovery phase was doing the same thing every single day and giving 100 percent each time. Rehab, physiotherapy, rehab—the schedule was monotonous. Along with that, dealing with the mental challenges, particularly when progress seemed slow or stagnant. It was frustrating at times to not see immediate results despite putting in the hard work. Overcoming this required a lot of mental strength, patience, and the support of my family, friends and coaches at the NCA, who constantly encouraged me and kept my spirits high. And, of course, to top it all, not being able to do what you love the most, what you live for, playing cricket. That hurt the most.”

On his mental health post his injury and how it affected his loved ones, Pant shares:

“During the initial period after the accident, I spent a lot of time alone. Generally, when you’re with people, you have to give them space as well. Whatever they’re doing, you have to support them. But I was not in a very comfortable zone, mentally. I was in immense pain, day in and day out. I suddenly learned to be happy by myself, which was new to me. I didn’t want to please anyone. And for that, I might have hurt some people around me, especially my family and close relatives. They wanted the best for me at that time but it was a time when I felt like I needed to be left alone.”

On the source of his inspiration during the recovery process, he says:

“I just wanted to play for my country again. That’s my whole life’s mission, right? Playing for India. My whole thought process is how to win matches for my country. To feel the kind of love and support shown by so many people when I was away, that was just amazing. Later, when I started to travel, at airports and hotels, countless people would stop me and ask me how I was, or whether I was in pain. Simple questions like these, when you see that kind of love from unknown people, it just tells you how much they love you. And genuine love. These interactions pushed me further, every time.”

One piece of motivational advice from former India pace bowler turned Gujarat Titans bowling coach Ashish Nehra, Pant shares:

“He said, ‘Do whatever makes you happy.’ Very simple, but deep. I realized more than halfway through my recovery, that what he said was important. He’s someone who dealt with so many injuries and setbacks, but he fought to play for India again, and so I realized that he probably understood where I was. He knew that those simple words could really help a guy who’s in a lot of pain. Those words motivated me.”

The biggest takeaway for Pant after his injury and comeback:

“I think the biggest takeaway could be not to give up. Responsibility isn’t just about what you
do on the field but also how you manage yourself off it. Getting back to fitness, staying disciplined and giving myself time to reflect was essential.”

“Injuries and setbacks are part of an athlete’s journey, but what defines you is how you respond to them. The journey back can be long and tough, requiring immense mental strength and a positive attitude. Perseverance is key. You need to believe in yourself, stay patient, and keep working hard. Success is not always immediate, but with dedication, you can overcome challenges and come back stronger.”

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