'I'm tired of being asked who I am dating'
Define pressure with an example.
I have never handled a pressure situation like the 2011 World Cup quarter-final against Australia in Ahmedabad. I had not played the first six matches during the group stages but I knew I would get my chance. It was a crucial game, which we had to do well in, and against a team who do well in pressure-filled situations. I told myself I had to deliver and I told Yuvi [Yuvraj Singh] that. Our 74-run partnership won the match. That game changed my whole life.
What makes MS Dhoni angry?
He does not get angry often but he'll tell you in plain words if you misfield or don't do what is expected of you. In a match in the 2010 IPL, I was not finishing well. He told me that he, Badrinath and I were the key to finishing matches. He said it wasn't his job to come and tell me each time what to do. He told me that no matter what I do, I should try and stick around till the final over. It made me understand the captain's faith in me and reinforced my confidence.
You come from Uttar Pradesh, a place famous for its kebabs. What is the best place to have them?
Tunde Ka Kebab in Lucknow. One of the best in Asia. Right from my hostel days I have been a fan of their amazing kebabs and roomali rotis and parathas. My family members are vegetarians but I like mutton and chicken seekh kebabs.
Can you cook?
I learned at the sports hostel in Lucknow, where we had to cook for our seniors. During the Zimbabwe tour a few years back, Ashok Dinda and I cooked for the squad. I was the captain then and it was a nice way to mingle with the players off the field.
Tell us a secret about yourself.
I sing really well, my friends say. I don't like my voice, but I sang on stage during the Sahara awards a few years ago, so I don't mind singing.
Why don't you play the switch hit?
I do not know how to play it. It is a tough shot to play. I stick to the tried and tested. A few years ago, I tried the Mongoose bat that Matthew Hayden had made popular, but I couldn't get the same feel and confidence I get when I play with my regular bats.
What's your big weakness?
I am very emotional. I have hardly spent time with my family since I moved to boarding school when I was very young. I was struggling at that point, but thanks to Dilip Vengsarkar and Praveen Amre, who helped me during my teenage years, I settled down. Life in the hostel taught me how to stay strong and disciplined. Coming from a middle-class family, we never imagined I would rise to such heights. But my family's support and the timely guidance of a few helped me a lot.
If you had to design a blazer to go with your Chennai jersey, what colour would you pick?
Manchester United colours.
Who is your favourite cricket commentator?
Ravi Shastri and Nasser Hussain.
What is the one umpiring decision you would like to get reversed?
In West Indies, during the 2011 tour, I was wrongly given out twice. In Barbados, over dinner, Rahul bhai, Laxman bhai and Dhoni spoke about the challenge of batting on a bouncy pitch. I was batting well in the first innings when I was wrongly given out by Asad Rauf. The ball from Devendra Bishoo clearly hit my thigh pad and was caught by Adrian Barath [at short leg]. Rauf told me he suspected it had also hit the glove, but the replays showed it hadn't. I was in good form and missed out on a century.
Only three centuries in 151 ODIs. Does that give you sleepless nights?
Not really, considering I walk in as No. 6 or 7. Look at Michael Hussey - he has only three tons in 185 ODIs. When batting lower down, you are never sure how long you will get to bat. But I have really enjoyed batting down the order, even if though it's very difficult to succeed in those positions. Apart from Yuvraj, Dhoni and I, not many have done well in those positions.
What one question should the media be banned from asking you?
Who I am dating. They should keep away from my personal life.
Is there a match from the past where you wanted to be the player who turned the game on its head?
Brian Lara's 400 against England.
A sledge you cannot forget?
In 2006 we played Australia in a DLF Cup match in Kuala Lumpur. I was only 20 then. Hayden challenged me by saying, "Look mate, you are too young to face Brett Lee, since it might require certain skillsets." I immediately got two fours in a row against Lee, followed by a six against [Andrew] Symonds. I reminded Hayden of the incident during our time at Chennai Super Kings and we shared a good laugh.
Do you collect anything?
I like to keep most of my bats. I think I have about 250 bats, including my first - which cost Rs 2000 - a gift from my dad in 1998, when I moved to the hostel.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo