“I don’t focus on the bowler, I focus on my game”. “I look to give my 100%”. “I try to play my percentage”. These done-to-death lines can kill any media interaction. Yet it doesn’t feel clichéd when Rishabh Pant says them. He means it, and the fault may be in your perception if you don’t get it. India could have been dismissed for 200 or less on the first day of the Edgbaston Test but Pant has left them aiming to surpass the psychological 350-run barrier. That they slipped to 98/5 and still went on to score 338/7—India’s highest on the first day of a Test in England, bettering the 324/4 at the Oval in 1990—was all the doing of Pant’s level-headedness.
The pitch became better for batting after rain forced an extended lunch break but it took a fair bit of craft from the India vice-captain to throw England’s bowling off kilter. Evidently, no one does it better than Pant. “Especially in conditions like England, where you know the bowler is bowling well, it becomes important to disturb their line and length,” said Pant after play. “I keep trying that I do not play in the same manner so that the bowler gets mentally disturbed.”
In forcing James Anderson to change his lengths, Matt Potts to lose his line and Jack Leach to almost give up slow left-arm bowling, Pant was at his cavalier best. And what won’t be lost any time soon is the intent with which Pant bats, showing how uncomplicated batting can really be. “I don’t focus on the bowler; I focus on what he is bowling. It is not pre-planned that I have to go after this bowler,” said Pant.