December 13, 2011

'Forget the hundreds, just score runs'

Gautam Gambhir talks about coming to terms with the dip in his form, and looking forward to Australia

This will be your first trip to Australia as a Test opener. Are you geared up for it?
It is going to be a very challenging tour but exciting at the same time. As a cricketer you always want to do well in Australia, as that gives you a lot of satisfaction. It is a great place to play cricket in. I played in the CB Series in 2008 and I did pretty well there, and this time I am looking forwarding to opening in Test cricket.

Australia are one team that come hard at you all the time. They do not let you score runs easily. They are a tough team to crack and they have always done well under pressure. They have a good fast bowling attack, and even the crowd there is against you When they come hard at you, you need to have a lot of mental strength to tackle them.

You are going through a phase where you are getting starts but not converting them. Your last Test century came in January 2010. How much does that affect you in your batting?
It is not that I'm not scoring runs. If I was getting out cheaply or getting very low scores, I would be thinking about it. Sometimes when you think too much about scoring a hundred, what happens is, you start getting desperate for it.

I have always believed that when you open the batting you want to make the most of it; you want to score big runs. As an opening batsman you have to face the new ball and you never know what could happen in the next innings. But the most important thing is, you have to give [the team] decent starts. In the home Test series against West Indies we had some good opening stands between myself and Viru [Virender Sehwag], which set the platform for the middle order.

I want to score runs and big runs. That is what I have always wanted to do. And when I was scoring big hundreds, I was not thinking about it. I was just staying in the present, watching the ball. That is what I am doing now. In the Indore ODI I thought I would get a hundred, but I was caught. I know I have not scored an international century for nearly a year, but the important thing is to keep scoring runs and keep scoring big runs.

You mentioned getting desperate. Have you ever reached a point of desperation?
People will always recognise a batsman if he scores a hundred. And when everyone keeps talking about [how] you have not scored a hundred, it plays on your mind. It is very difficult to take it out of your system. But as I said, if I keep thinking too much, I might not be able to score what I have been scoring and giving good starts. Then I would only be thinking about not scoring a hundred. You start from nought, and from nought to a hundred is a long, long journey.

Have you spoken about it to anyone?
This is something I cannot really discuss honestly. There are so many great batsmen who did not score hundreds for a long time, but once it comes you end up scoring a lot of hundreds together. It is just incidental. Before scoring my second Test hundred against Australia, in Mohali, I had said I just needed one and I would try and get lots of hundreds. That was what happened: I scored five in five. And now there is a phase where I have not scored a hundred in a long time. But at least I have been scoring decently and I have been pretty consistent. I do not want to score a hundred in one innings followed by a lot of low scores. I would rather have four or five good, decent scores that will contribute to the team's cause.

Honestly I have not discussed this with anyone because deep inside my heart I know my style and I have scored five consecutive hundreds in five Test matches. So I am not getting worried yet.

"If I keep thinking too much, I might not be able to score what I have been scoring and giving good starts. Then I would only be thinking about not scoring a hundred. You start from nought, and from nought to a hundred is a long, long journey"

The England tour was a difficult time, where you were hit in the field and forced to return home due to concussion.
It is absolutely fine now. In England out of the six innings, I played three with an injury. But that is over now. After that, in the England ODI series [in India] I managed to get some good scores, and against West Indies I was pretty happy with the way I was hitting my strokes.

You and Sehwag did not open in all the matches in England, but both of you are now fit and among the runs. That should be a shot in the arm for the Indian batting.
I remember Rahul [Dravid] saying in an interview that it was very good to have two positive openers because they can score runs very freely and very quickly. Whenever me and Viru open the batting, we always discuss scoring runs rather than surviving, because cricket is all about scoring runs. You can survive a whole session and score 30 to 50 runs, but suddenly you get out and realise that you have not taken the team anywhere. Instead, you'd rather have been 100 for 2 than 50 for 2. Both of us always look to be positive. Ultimately you want to score runs and put the opposition under pressure.

What does Sehwag scoring 200 in ODI mean to you?
It is very special, even to me. Being the highest run-getter in ODI cricket is no doubt a great feeling. He has done [the job] whenever he has got the opportunity. Hopefully he can continue with this form in Australia. Test matches are a different ball game but he can take a lot of confidence from this 200 against West Indies because having runs under your belt is always good when you go on a tough tour. It puts us in a good position to give good starts.

Sehwag revealed that he had with him the DVD of Sachin Tendulkar's double-century for inspiration. Do you have anything similar to motivate yourself with?
I do have some of my own good Test innings, like the century in Napier, the Wellington innings, the 90 and 70-odd in Cape Town. Watching them helps me get in the frame of mind for Test cricket. When you are constantly playing cricket, all three forms, you hardly get any time to adapt quickly mentally [and get] into the frame of mind needed for each format.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo