Far away from all the clamour of a home Test loss in Indore, Rishabh Pant is taking small steps in his return to a normal life. There’s no question that Indian fans keep recalling him, but even beyond his batting and keeping talents, there are countless reasons to miss him, writes Aadya Sharma.

This day, last year. Mohali.

India are 170-3, a decent position you would say if you’ve followed the ongoing Australia Tests. Rishabh Pant is in at five. His first scoring shot is a fierce, dancing-down-the-pitch hoick over deep mid-wicket. Over the next hour, he does all of the following: jumps out to quicks, nurdles spinners away with finesse, plays classy late-cuts and sweeps, and also does some of his freaky, one-handed stuff.

He ambles to his first fifty, off 73 balls. The next 46 runs, he gets in 24 balls.

That day, he was dismissed on 96, sinking to his knees in dejection as he missed a straighter one. The thrill-a-minute knock was outstanding and in every sense a typical Pant knock, carrying India to 332-6 [they finished on 574-8]. Team totals, personal milestones, leads and deficits take a backseat when he bats. It’s like sitting in a rubber dinghy on a whitewater rapid: you’ll toss around, flail, scream, jump, and even regret it at first. You’ll be drenched before you’re ashore. But you’ll love it after all. Pant took India ashore more often than not.

It’s painful that he’s far away from the Indian team right now.

And it’s not all because Pant is a vital batting asset, arguably the best Test wicketkeeper-batter around. It’s not about the hole he left in the middle order, the now-awry balance of the side, and the absence of a quality wicketkeeper. No, it’s not all about that.

You count all the reasons to miss Pant, the batter, or Pant, the wicketkeeper. But beyond all of that, there are countless reasons to miss Rishabh Pant – just for who he is.

Close your eyes, and you’ll be able to hear Pant yelp “C’mon Ash, C’mon Ash!” in his screechy voice. You can hear him call Tim Paine “a temporary captain”. You can hear him ask Rassie van der Dussen to “keep his mouth shut”. You can hear him tease Zak Crawley with the “someone is getting angry” quip, only to see him perish next ball. He tried to even sledge Virat Kohli once.

He’ll be there behind the stumps, cheerfully smiling on even the hottest of days. The bowlers would be struggling, and a breakthrough won’t be in sight, but he’d still be chit-chatting with the slip cordon, keeping the spirits up, rarely ever looking flustered behind those reflective shades of his.

You miss him waltzing all over his crease, throwing himself at the ball, falling around, losing his bat grip, and somehow still being able to clear the ropes. He’d probably break into a smile even if it lands into the hands of a fielder.

And the DRS calls. It doesn’t matter if he’s eventually right or wrong – at that very moment, Pant is absolutely convinced about taking a review (or not taking it). Be it Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli, he’ll find a way to convince the captain, and he’ll smile along if it doesn’t go your way. He is yet to make R Ashwin completely happy, but he’ll surely turn him around too.

He struggles to recall team changes at the toss, he likes to photobomb team members mid-interview, he sings weird renditions of the Spiderman theme song. And he gives you gifts.

Rishabh Pant is fun. He is real. He is relatable. And that’s why you miss him more. It feels like missing a dear friend who’s relocated to another country.

Last week, Pant revealed that he’s found happiness in the little joys of life – sitting under the sun or brushing his teeth. He’s gained a “fresh perspective” on how he views life and is looking to enjoy it to the fullest. The car crash broke him physically, but it couldn’t break his spirit.

And so, whenever he returns, he’ll have an entire nation waiting, wanting to give him a bear hug. He’s the gifted, naughty child of the house, prancing about the whole place, keeping the unit together, getting all the work done but never letting the spirits down. He’s always around, but you miss him a lot when he’s not.

Being Pant, you can expect him to return with the same brio and spunk, making up for lost time and getting all the runs and catches that he’s destined to get. Whenever that familiar smile is back on TV, cricket will be reunited with one of its most genuine souls. You don’t get too many of those in life anymore, let alone in the sport.

We’ll wait Rishabh, we’ll wait. Feel better soon.