'I went to dinner with my whites, gloves and helmet on'
Is it true that you are a fan of the Rocky movies?
Yes, a very big fan. I have a big collection of various Rocky things. I have watched every Rocky numerous times. Obviously the acting is a key element of my fan worship, but somewhere I think I could relate quite a bit to Sylvester Stallone's character, and I visualise myself in his shoes when I train. That makes me enjoy what I do and keep me motivated.
So do you run with the "Eye of the Tiger" playing in your ears during training?
And what is your favourite line from the series?
"It ain't over till it's over."
You're said to wear a yellow t-shirt to dinner all the time. Is that a superstition?
I keep saying yellow is my favourite colour, but now the cat's out of the bag, yes, it is a superstition. During the season the t-shirt was a lucky charm. I wore it every day before I went for training and then I wore it to dinner every day of the match.
Tell us about your training routines.
I enjoy my training a lot, and since childhood I have tried different things, some crazy but at the same time challenging - climbing pipelines, pushing cars uphill, running up and down 14 floors of the building in which I live in Mumbai, wood-chopping. At the Bandra-Kurla Complex ground I used to shovel and carry mud from one part of the ground to the other. The idea was not to spend the whole time in the gym and pump iron and grow my muscles. These tasks raise my endurance and allow me to try different things.
You also do this thing where you shriek?
Recently I started working with a mental-skills coach. Having understood the kind of person I am and my mental process, one of the things he suggested was to scream out the kind of things I want to achieve - essentially my goals. It is difficult to explain but the idea is to stimulate the mind and believe in what I am saying. You have these mental blocks and somehow shouting at the top of your lungs gets rid of them.
That sounds wacky. Have you landed in trouble for causing noise pollution?
I did a session at Rohit's [Sharma] house and people in his building were concerned whether things were fine. They thought someone was fighting. And let me tell you this, Rohit was a lot louder than me.
What is the craziest thing you have done while playing cricket?
During a zonal Under-19 tournament in Rohtak, I was very disappointed with my dismissal. Later in the evening I went to dinner with my whites, gloves and helmet on. Needless to say, my team-mates were embarrassed.
You advise your team-mates on where they should invest their money. Do you enjoy playing the consultant?
We only play for a short period of time in our lives, so I have always thought that we have to be wise about where we put our money. I have been fortunate to have people around me who give me good advice, so I feel it is important for me to share it with my friends.
What is the best investment then?
Owning property is very important. Investing in shares is another good option, but not more than 20% [of your savings], and the key is to distribute the money across different stocks.
What is the best story you have heard about the pride of playing for Mumbai?
My coaches, from Dinesh Nanavati, Chandrakant Pandit, Praveen Amre Sir and Naresh Churi always spoke about the pride attached to playing for any Mumbai team - not just Ranji. I don't remember any specific story but I recollect the Mumbai U-19s, under Chandu sir, would get into a huddle and shout "Go Mumbai." The feeling about playing as a team and winning is always there when you play for Mumbai. When I entered the Ranji dressing room for the first time, I was intimidated on seeing some of the big players training and speaking about that pride and how important winning was.
Who is the toughest player in Ranji Trohy?
Wasim Jaffer is someone I have always looked up to. The second is Ajinkya Rahane, whose work ethic has always impressed me.
Have you ever successfully sledged a top player?
Shitanshu Kotak of Saurashtra is one of the toughest batsmen to bowl to on the domestic circuit. A lot of people believe that sledging only makes him bat better. I've been going at him right from the Times Shield days, and once in the 2003-04 season I went after him like a mad man. Even when I was not bowling, I was chatting to him. Kotak finally said: "Bhai, main bhi das saal Ranji Trophy khel chooka hoon (Mate, I have played Ranji Trophy for ten years)." I told him I didn't care, and finally got him out.
What's your favourite wicket celebration routine?
After reaching my maiden first-class century [in Pakistan], I pulled up my sleeves, kissed my biceps and flexed them all around. I was quite pumped up and it was a spontaneous reaction.
You girlfriend is a hair stylist. Does she do your hair?
Before we started dating, I was more creative - that's what she says. At the moment I have shaved my head, having visited Tirupathi recently. But in the past I have done highlights, and coloured patches of my hair red, blue, blond, grey, white.
You are known for your dancing skills. Are you better than Sreesanth?
It is difficult to say. Both of us are good, but it would be really close. You should ask Rohit, Yuvi or Virat that question.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo