How do you look back at this year?
Well it has been full of injuries; my form wasn’t great. I have struggled a lot throughout. But the year has made me strong mentally because it was a tough year to go by. I would say the worst in my 10 years of playing career.
How do you tackle these difficult times? Injuries, being dropped...
When things aren’t going right, people start talking about you, and you have to face a lot of criticism. All your extra-curricular activities are related to your game and it is very upsetting. But the way we survive in international cricket is to work hard, focus on your game, focus on the process. Getting up doing the same routine, staying around quality people helps. I get a lot of support from my family and my friends from the Indian cricket team. These things have helped me a lot to go through this year.
You bowled well during the ODI series against New Zealand. Kevin Pietersen will probably eat his words (pie-chucker, let-arm filth).
Well, he called me a pie-chucker because he hates my bowling and not because I am not a decent bowler. That was all fun and nothing serious and I also call him a pie-chucker. I am bowling a lot in ODIs now when Jadeja is not playing. You have to bowl 7-10 overs and I am doing a decent job.
What are the areas you think still need polishing?
Last year I had a lot of breakages in my body. I have never been hundred per cent in fielding, but since the last series I have felt good about it. And I am feeling 100 per cent about it. I have been batting well, bowling well and, hopefully, if I keep fit, my fielding will come alive as well.
Why do you say ‘hopefully’?
Once you get injured, it plays on your mind that you don’t want to get injured again. And I kept on getting injured again and again. If that keeps happening then it is very difficult to come back and be hundred per cent on the field. Every injury takes time so hopefully for a while I don’t have one again.
How eager are you to return to Test squad?
Very eager! As I said, things haven’t fallen in place for me in the last year and a half and I just need to concentrate on whatever cricket I get to play, whether it is Twenty20 or ODIs. If I get selected in Tests it will be great. At the moment the focus is on South Africa ODIs and then the World Cup.
You have been around 10 years in the side, what are the changes that have marked the Indian team’s rise?
Lot of changes have marked the rise of Team India. When John Wright came in, a lot of youngsters came in, like (Virender) Sehwag, Harbhajan (Singh), (Mohammad) Kaif and myself. That was the transformation period then. With Gary in, the work ethics of the players have changed. There is a lot of emphasis on training — fielding methods, techniques, batting in the nets and working on your weaknesses. The focus is on the process. Gary has made us believe that we can be the No 1 team and that has been shown in the last two years.
Do you see yourself in the Rohits, Rainas and Kohlis of the team?
Yes. When I see a Virat, Rohit or Raina diving, I feel very proud of them. I always go and give a pat on their back. I see myself as I used to do that in my younger days. Coming in the team and just trying to stop every ball going past and the commitment on the field while they are batting and just the way they carry themselves on the field reminds me a lot of my younger days.
As a senior what do you tell them not to do?
Lot of things. At a very young age, it is very easy to get carried away with the fame. I just tell them to be humble and thank god for your success and carry on with your process. Do not change your attitude when you are getting runs or even when you are not.
So are you their mentor?
Yes, definitely. My mentor has been Sachin Tendulkar all throughout. I hope whatever mistakes I have made, they don’t make. It is very easy to say that they should do this and that, but the thing is until and unless one doesn’t make a mistake, he doesn’t learn from it. But all I can do is guide them.
Your life outside cricket is as well documented as much as inside…
People should also respect that we have a life outside the game. We have family, we have friends and we also like to do a lot of things. But the problem is media likes to get into your private life a lot. It is important that they should leave us alone a bit outside our cricket life and not to relate those things to what happens on the field. We all lead a certain life and we do the same things what others also do. But just because we are in the public life, we get highlighted. So I think that’s not fair.
You recently changed your management. How do you define the role of your manager?
It is very easy to be my manager. I get along easily with anyone. The manager has to look into the best of my interests. People I worked previously with also had their own interests. People who manage me should be working in my interests and not only look at establishing themselves. I am a very friendly guy so people have taken me for granted. I think since I joined Kedhar Gawde, I have been very comfortable with him and enjoy my time with him. He has been in this market for a long time so I know he is the perfect guy for me.
We have seen you reading books, what books are you into?
Shantaram is a very famous and interesting story. I hope to go to Leopold bar and meet him sometime. Somebody told me to read it. But otherwise I am not a book worm to be honest. I just read what I can.
Do you read newspapers regularly?
I definitely don’t. If somebody has told me to read something only then I do. But I avoid reading it because a lot of things are made up and lot of masala is added into it to sell it on paper or TV channels. It is just a part of selling news and I don’t enjoy it much therefore.
You will be a crucial cog for India’s chances at the World Cup...
Well at the moment I am looking at carrying out my role in bowling and batting in the middle order and taking the game to the end. So I just need to get back the consistency and that’s what I am looking forward to.