How satisfying was that 83-run knock at the top of the order in Chandigarh?
It was an extremely crucial knock because it helped us seal the series. The team management had told me well in advance that I would be tried out as an opener. So I wasn’t surprised as such.
And on a personal note?
Yes, yes obviously. I was going through a very rough patch. I badly needed a knock like that. It kind of took the pressure off me. The timing was perfect. I guess I would have been dropped had I failed.
Are ready for that slot?
Look, it was an experiment and it worked. In the next match (Dharamsala), it didn’t. It’s up to the team management. But I enjoyed the challenge.
Did you readily agree when they suggested the idea?
Why wouldn’t I? The team management told me they trust my technique. I grabbed the chance with both hands. I’m glad I did well. But again, it’s too early.
You’ve batted at No 5 and No 6. How different was it to open?
It’s way different. Firstly, you are up against the new ball. That’s a challenge in itself. Secondly, you have to be patient, very patient. Then, there are the conditions. It’s you who’s got to gauge it first up. Opening is something which I’ve never done before. Actually I have, in South Africa a few years ago. But that was a surprise. This was planned. So I had time to prepare.
Do you think your style of play is suited to this slot? After all, it gives you time to settle in. When you bat at No 5, you are usually left with eight to 10 overs...
Look, it’s a very difficult question. I don’t want to think too much. I am not the kind of person who gets too excited. I have opened only twice. There is a lot more to learn. But I was happy when the management approached me. Basically, they trust me, my skills, my technique. They showed faith in me. I accept I hadn’t done anything of note in the past few months. But I know I deserve my place in the 15. It’s not that I am woefully out of form. If I were, then how would I score 700-plus runs in six Ranji Trophy matches?
What technical adjustments you made during your time out of the XI?
I was just hitting the ball. There are no big flaws in my technique. Look, as a batsman nobody in the world has a perfect technique. Some aspects keep troubling you. Why else would you bat in the nets? I don’t want to go into the details, but Duncan Fletcher has been of great help. He’s been watching me for nearly two years now. But to execute it is your job. I keep it very simple. I never overdo things. It gets even worse then. My funda is simple: get Dhananjay (video analyst) to provide you with the footage, watch it, talk to yourself and apply it in the nets.
Did you sit down and analyse your game during the lean patch?
When you are not in form, the best thing you can do is stay away from cricket. I prefer being in a happy zone, a positive atmosphere. If you keep brooding over your failures, you will just go crazy. Yes, you are constantly reminded of the fact that you are not getting runs. It hits you in the face when you go to bed. But it’s important you don’t let it affect you. You must know when to switch on and off.
Another season, another Ranji crown for Mumbai...
Brilliant, isn’t it? I couldn’t play in the knockout stage, but I made it a point to watch the telecast after practice. To win 40 titles is not a joke..
Mumbai last won the Irani Cup in 1995. You guys must be desperate to win it this time. After all, it’s a full-strength side. Only Zaheer Khan is missing...
It will be a good match. We will play like we always do — like champions. It doesn’t matter who’s in the Test of India team. We know we have the team to do it.
You will then fly to Chennai to represent India ‘A’ in a warm-up game against Australia...
I’m really looking forward to that game.
That’s it? The selectors have just reopened the No 6 debate by picking you, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary and Ambati Rayudu. Won’t there be tough competition for that slot in the Test XI?
Things that are to happen will happen.
You were barely an hour away from making your Test debut a few years ago. And then you got injured. You’ve been called ‘talented’, ‘promising’, ‘the next big thing’ but you are yet to play a Test. How do you stay motivated?
What motivation do I need? Isn’t playing for India motivating enough? Michael Hussey made his debut at 30. Doesn’t mean I want to start my Test career so late. But I am only 25 now. I know my time will come.