'When I start thinking too much, I'm in trouble'
Are you in a happy place?
I think I sort of know my role in the team now and what I have to do while I am out there batting. I am not thinking about other stuff. I just play my natural game. The coaches have given us our jobs to do and we play our games. They give us the freedom to express ourselves when we are out there.
What's the role given to you?
To be aggressive at the start, depending on how the other batsmen go. It also means I need to bat through 30 overs and set up the game for the lower-order batsmen.
Has John Wright asked you to do some things in particular?
Wrighty is really good, just says it how it is. He keeps it simple as well, knows how we play and lets us just play to our ability. He backs us, expects us to turn up and train hard.
Recently, midway into the World Cup campaign, he did say if we hit it out of the net we were going to be in a "six-and-out" position, so it was good for the boys, I reckon, just to milk ones and get used to taking your time through that middle stage where we pick up a run a ball. It seems to be working for the boys of late - they have got off to a flier, then calmed down, taken the ones, and then gone and hit again, which has set up the team through the game.
What did you learn from that exercise?
Just patience. Nailing your game down to how you want to play. It does take a while to get everything sorted in your game. The sort of position I'm in now, I have played enough to know my game. And that is part of my game where I get into a stage to get a run a ball, because I can naturally hit the bad ball.
Considering the talent you have, there is always this feeling that a big innings is around the corner. Do you feel the same?
I always go in with that confidence. At the moment I am striking the ball well in the nets. Even in the Pakistan series [at home] when I got all those ducks in a row, I was still striking the ball, and I always felt that the big score was coming. And I got a fifty in the first one-dayer and a hundred in the last one. So as long as I'm striking the ball well and training properly I'm still feeling good going out there in the middle.
How tough has it been to rein in your attacking instincts?
It was the patience. Since I have got to the World Cup I have been a bit more patient. The moment I start thinking too much, I am in trouble. If there is too much on my mind that is when I am in trouble. When I am basically not thinking about other things I can express myself better.
How do you switch off?
In the Test matches it is different because you have got all the time in the world, so it is pretty easy to switch off. I like to joke with the likes of Martin Guptill and I like having fun. I can't reveal much but we do talk about dance moves and stuff. I usually stay away from cricket when I am not playing. I follow a lot of rugby league [Melbourne Storm], and having played basketball during my young days I still play it and follow the Boston Celtics. It is just excitement I get watching those sports. All my mates are into the same sort of things as well. We have got a sweepstakes that we do every year, where we pick the winner of each game and the person who comes out on top takes about $1000 away. There is a bit of gambling involved, of course.
You are supposedly the DJ of the New Zealand dressing room?
It is one of the jobs I perform on tours - be the music guy, carry the speakers, sort out the music in the change room. I have got loads of songs on my computer - about 20,000. It is not an easy job. I have got to get the variation there. Luckily I have a lot of different stuff on the playlists, which caters to everyone's tastes. A big hit at the moment is Dave Dobbin, a guy from New Zealand. He played to us before the Pakistan match in Auckland. I use that to get the team going before matches at times.
There seem to be two sides to you: one is the playful one in the dressing room, where you are free. But once you step out of there, the world seems to view you differently.
I am seen as a bad boy - reckless and stuff like that from my past. But now I am a pretty chilled out, low-key sort of person who likes to have fun. It is sort of how I have grown up and what I know.
Do you get involved in verbal duels with the opposition while batting?
Sometimes. It spurs me on more than anything, makes me want to score runs. If it is in my zone I am still going to play my shots, if it is one of my strong shots.
Who is the batsman you most enjoy watching in modern-day cricket?
I like Ross Taylor, who seems unstoppable when he gets in the mood. [MS] Dhoni is good to watch when he is going as well. I don't watch too much cricket unless I'm playing it. Even when I get out I tend to not watch too much of the cricket.
Have you learned anything from the Twenty20 format?
That is probably my worst game. What I'm still learning is that in Twenty20 cricket you have actually got more time than you think.
Is there one innings where you played just the way you wanted to play?
The last innings against Pakistan in Auckland was probably my best innings in the recent past. I backed myself and played my shots. I was not thinking too much, kept it very simple - see the ball, hit the ball.
Also, the double-hundred [against India], where I felt they could not get me out. It was one of the days where you walk out and start hitting the ball out of the middle from ball one and feel good. Like I said, I had nothing on my mind, just batting. That made it easy.
I got a hundred and a double-hundred. Harbhajan Singh told me he had enough of me batting in that series. When you have got people like him saying that, it is a compliment. That double-century remains my favourite innings. In fact, the bat I hit the double-hundred with was the one with which I hit my first one-day century.
What is the one shot you play that makes you enjoy your batting?
I feel good when I stand up quite tall and hit it over cover-point. That is the shot that has come out of nowhere, really. When I play it I'm usually trying to block the ball. But actually if I give it a little bit more there is a chance of getting runs. And if I hit that off a good-length ball then it might make the bowler think about not pitching on the same length again.
What would you say has been the biggest change in your career?
Patience is probably the biggest thing that has changed. The time I've had sitting out in the last two years has allowed me to think a lot about my game and work on my game.
On the technical front I am still learning to get forward a little bit more and not leaning back when I am driving, and making sure the head is over the ball.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo