Rishabh Pant reveals how he dug India out of a hole…

‘I never take it (England) as a favourite opposition. I do not think much about the opposition. I focus mostly on playing my game.’

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Rishabh Pant was the star on Day 1 of the fifth Test against England, rallying India from a precarious 98 for 5 to a commanding 338 for 7 by stumps, at Edgbaston cricket ground, on Friday.

Speaking at the end of the day’s play, he explained how he was able to turn it around for the tourists.

Pant, who made his Test debut against England at Trent Bridge in Nottingham in 2018 and got off the mark in the longest format of the game with a towering six before slamming his maiden Test century against them a match later at the Oval, and Ravindra Jadeja came up with a mammoth 222-run partnership for the sixth wicket, off 239 balls, the highest by an Indian team in England and India’s joint fourth-highest in Test cricket, to check the marauding home bowlers.

“The discussion between Jadeja and me was that we seek a partnership. I was just talking about building a partnership with Jadeja and we were like… let’s try for a partnership.

“I never take it (England) as a favourite opposition. I do not think much about the opposition. I focus mostly on playing my game.

“When a bowler pitches the ball consistently in one spot I try to step out, play unconventional shots, to unsettle the bowlers,” said Pant, who was out after scoring a magnificent 146, which included 20        fours and 4 sixes, off 111 deliveries.

He said Head coach Rahul Dravid had told him, to “play according to the ball”.

“I work a lot on my defence. You can’t play shots on plain balls, so it’s important to play on the throw. The only thing discussed with Rahul Dravidbhai was that I should play one ball at a time and not focus too much on other things.

“My coach, Taarak Sinha sir, had told me long back that you can attack, but you need to defend as well and respect the bowler when he bowls well and that is what I do.

“I have been focusing on playing good shots and giving my hundred per cent, and that’s actually helping me improve,” he added.

With India in a spot at at 98 for 5, was there any pressure on him when he went in?

“The pressure is always there. If you focus on it, you might not get the results, so I try to focus more on my game. I focus on the variations that the bowler is using in his spell. I focus on the ball, particularly; if there is a good ball then I play a shot on it. I didn’t have any pre-plan that I have to score more runs against this particular bowler,” said Pant.

Pant played a superb innings to register his fifth century in Test cricket while Jadeja was unbeaten on 83 in 163 balls at close of play.

Their partnership ended when Pant was removed by former England captain Joe Root. His knock transformed the face of the game as India went on to dominate the second and third sessions.

After Pant’s departure, England was able to remove Shardul Thakur as well, providing them something to cheer about at the end of the day.

On Saturday, Day 2, India will resume Day on 338 for 7 with Jadeja and Mohammad Shami, who is yet to open his account after facing 11 balls.

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