Kolkata: The rising graph in Rishabh Pant’s performance over the last few months, both in front of the stumps as well as behind it, had been one of the major talking points in the last two Test series - and head coach Ravi Shastri spilled out the secret behind it.
‘‘We were hard on him, for nothing comes easy. There were never any doubts about his talent but he was told to give little more respect to the game and shed a few kilos of weight. He worked like a maniac in the last three to four months and the results are now showing,’’ said Shastri, who had been a mastermind behind the team’s outstanding performance in the new season.
Speaking to the official broadcasters after the hosts wrapped up the series 3-1 to seal a berth in World Test Championship (WTC) final, the former Indian allrounder was ecstatic about Pant’s century on Friday. ‘‘His yesterday’s innings was perhaps the best counter-attacking innings I have seen by an Indian in India. His innings had two phases, the first part was also difficult as he was playing against his grains and the pitch was spicy. Same with Washington Sundar - the way these youngsters have come through the ranks have been unreal,’’ he said.
Summing up the two back-to-back series wins against Australia on their soil and then England, Shastri said the best attribute about this bunch was that they refused to give up under any circumstances.
‘‘If you look at this side in the last last eight Tests, they have been under all kinds of situations. They had been at the top, they had been at a corner and they were at the dumps. They refused to give up under any circumstances,’’ he observed.
The self belief, according to him, did not come overnight. ‘‘To be on top of the table, it took two and-a-half years work and to reach there was another six years prior to that. The boys took one series at a time and were not really bothered about making the WTC final. We were heading the table at one stage and then suddenly this percentage rule came when we were not even playing. We have achieved our target with 520 points,’’ he said.
The margin of victory, according to Shastri, was not really a true reflection of the nature of the contest. ‘‘The result does not say how close the series was. In the first Test at Chennai, the boys were like zombies after the Australian tour but it was a magnificent performance from England. There were no crowds, everything was flat and so was the performance. A kick on the backside sometimes helps,’’ said Shastri, who does not believe in holding back any punches.
Finally, he credited the teamwork behind the success. Asked how they made it work, he said on a lighter note: ‘‘It was the bubble which brought us together. The boys have been together since the IPL and as professionals, the way they have responded to the challenge have been magnificent.’’