It's important to train even if you're not batting. You just have to do that routine every time. After IPL I didn't bat for almost 20-25 days. I was just training, did my pool sessions. I just started my batting seven-eight days back. It's important to get into that rhythm. It's a long season ahead.
In West Indies, from whatever I have heard, a few wickets have good bounce and pace. Jamaica has good bounce. Few wickets might have some turn, some help for the spinners. So I am just practising according to that. It's rainy season in Mumbai, so I am just practising indoors, but just simulating whatever conditions I am going to face.
Personally, I am right now just focusing on the West Indies series. Yes, it's a long season for us. We are going to play 17 to 18 Test matches, but it is important to stay in the present. Right now, our goal is to do well in West Indies because we did pretty well in Test cricket in the last one, one and a half years. It's important to continue that form. We are going to play Test matches after a long time. The start will be very important for us as a Test team.
I never think about such things, but I am really happy, really excited. Thanks to BCCI, who gave me this new opportunity, new challenge in my career. It's very good to see that selection committee actually believes in you, so that gives me confidence, motivation to do well for my country.
"I spend half an hour, 45 minutes the day before the game visualising. I sometimes sit, sometimes I hold my bat and do shadow practice"
I was captaining the Mumbai Under-19 team in the Cooch Behar Trophy and we were playing against Odisha in Cuttack. It was a four-day game, and for the first-innings lead they needed ten runs, with five to six wickets in hand. I was a bit confused whether to give the ball to a spinner - the wicket was turning and there was low bounce - or fast bowler. I backed my instinct and gave it to a fast bowler, and he actually took all the wickets. We took the lead by two to three runs.
It was a very good experience for me as a captain. Because, I remember the first game, it was so close. Bhuvneshwar [Kumar] bowled really well. With ten runs to win in one over, he just gave four to five runs. That actually taught me a very good lesson - that as a captain you should back your team-mates, you should support them, give them confidence all the time. And as a captain, you also learn so many things from your team-mates, from your opponents, how they think, how they play with you, their composition and tactics against you. So you should be very open-minded to learn new ideas.
Maybe, yes. I was captaining after a long time - I just captained Mumbai U-19, and after that I went straight to the Indian team.
I think it started maybe two years back. Actually it started when I was with Rajasthan Royals and when Rahul [Dravid] bhai was the captain. He gave me the confidence to express myself - not only on the field but off the field in team meetings or wherever we travel. He just told me, "Whatever you feel, just be free to express it, so that your mind will be freer. You will start thinking more and more."
I think maybe after the Test matches in England and in Australia, we played one-day series immediately and I did pretty well. Technically you don't have to change many things but mental adjustments are very important. If you play one-dayers after Test matches, you should know where the gaps are. You should be able to rotate the strike very often.
That's what is important. Preparation is something you can control; results you can't. If you see, even Sachin [Tendulkar] paaji or Rahul bhai used to prepare well before series. I saw Sachin paaji preparing here even before his 200th Test match. You have to have that dedication, that determination, that willingness to prepare.
I wasn't looking at my average. It was just a number. I knew that if I played one or two good innings… I mean, it was just a matter of spending time at the crease.
"I have made one rule - after every practice session or a game just think maybe 15-20 minutes about what you did on the day. Good decision, bad decision and just switch off after that"
Analysing is very important. In India sometimes there is no bounce like in Australia or South Africa. In India the ball comes just below your waist height. I was thinking about it and realised that keeping my backlift low would be very important. I had a discussion with Sanjay bhai and with Pravin [Amre] sir over the phone about it. Both gave me a very positive response and told me to back myself.
Yes, many times. It is completely how you feel in that particular moment. Sometimes my backlift is so high. In South Africa [during the 96 in Durban] it helps you in playing some shots like the cut and pull. It just comes instinctively, once you spend time in the middle and you get an idea of the wicket.
I am comfortable both ways. I love leaving the ball, actually, it's a good sign. As an opening batsman, it comes pretty naturally because you face the new ball all the time. I batted at the top of the order for Mumbai, I have batted at No. 3, so I know how to handle the new ball. However, once you bat at No. 5, No. 6, sometimes it is important to score runs. You play the second new ball, but before that, when the ball is old, you are thinking about scoring runs.
What he meant by that was, if you think about actions, as in backlift, don't think about the reaction, what is going to happen next. Just play one ball at a time. If you just take care of this part - playing close to the body - action and reaction will happen automatically.
I just switch off for a bit. Sometimes I talk to myself. It is important to switch off between balls. Just go out of the crease, chill for two-three seconds, take a deep breath and come back and switch on. If you want to focus for long periods as a batsman, it's important to switch on and off between balls.
If you switch off, it's not like you will break your momentum. Switch off means you don't want to think too much about too many things. In Melbourne I wanted to dominate completely but at the same time I wanted to switch off between balls so that the focus is really there. You want that fine focus. When the bowler is about to deliver, you want your concentration at the peak.
When I am batting I don't think about any other things. My only focus is to watch the ball every time. The noise in the crowd actually motivates me. I always think the crowd is there to support me, not to go against me. Even in Australia I saw that the crowd were enjoying our batting when we were smashing the Australians. That's what you want as a foreign team. We gained that respect. It's important to just focus on that moment and not worry about what's going on around.
Yes, I do meditate everyday. That's my routine now. It's actually helping me to concentrate more, focus more and just think better.
Whenever I am on the field, I always try and think: If I am the captain, what should be my field?
I normally do it a day before the game, and even during the game when I am sitting in the dressing room before I go to bat. I spend half an hour, 45 minutes the day before the game visualising. I sometimes sit, sometimes I hold my bat and do shadow practice, keeping in mind who I am going to face tomorrow and what the conditions will be.
I think both times in Melbourne - the innings against Australia in the Test match and the 79 against South Africa in the World Cup. I was actually thinking in both the innings how I was going to dominate them, because the teams that did well in Australia, they played aggressive cricket. I was visualising which shots would be important on that particular wicket.
Yes, I am that kind of person who thinks about my game. I love that. It's my passion. The more you think, the more you learn. That's my theory. But it's important to switch off. When someone like Rahul Dravid tells you that you are thinking too much, you just have to chill (smiles). I get the best out of me when I think, but you should know when to think about your game and when you should completely switch off.
I have made one rule - after every practice session or a game just think maybe 15-20 minutes about what you did on the day. Good decision, bad decision, just analyse that day completely and just switch off after that. Then I don't think about cricket, I don't talk about cricket. That is actually helping me because keeping your mind fresh in this era is very important, because we play so much cricket, we play all the formats.
I enjoy watching Virat and Rohit [Sharma] in my team. [Among the] foreign teams I enjoy watching Kane Williamson because of the way he plays in Tests and one-dayers. Our game is a bit similar because we normally play cricketing shots even in T20s, and his consistency in Test matches and one-dayers is incredible. I enjoy watching Steve Smith's game. He's a different player. He has a different method of scoring runs. It's important you learn many things from different batsmen, how they score runs, what their mindset is.
I did pretty well against South Africa in India. Sometimes, if the ball is not coming [on to the bat] it's difficult to rotate strike, but you don't want to hurry or play some rash shot. So I prepared myself really well. I was actually playing on rank turners and unprepared wickets here at the BKC [facility in Mumbai]. I wanted to make it really tough for myself so that I would be comfortable during the game. Making myself uncomfortable during practice is the key factor.
"Preparation is something you can control; results you can't. I saw Sachin paaji preparing here even before his 200th Test match"
Yes, I do get angry. In the end I am also a human being. But I don't like to show it. I always like to keep it cool and calm. Anger is inside me. I don't like to show it on my face. I have never sledged or showed my anger in the cricket field. Never. Whenever I stay cool and calm, I actually perform better.
Sometimes misunderstandings happen on the cricket field, but it is important to stay calm. Everyone has a different personality. Being aggressive helps Virat to perform better on the field, and staying cool and calm helps me perform better. I think you should respect each and every one's character.
Everyone wants to carry themselves differently on and off the field. Everyone has a different character, and so do I. My focus is to perform consistently on the field. Off the field I am just a normal human being.
My mantra is simple: I will work hard on my cricket and completely love the game. For me it's important to score runs on the field. For them it's important to take care of me off the field. It's important to trust your manager completely. From a player's perspective, you can't think of stuff off the field. That's their bread and butter. They will take care of your image. If you take care of the game, other things will happen automatically.
We were dating for six to seven years, and in September it will be two years since we got married. She's been helping me a lot. Whenever we're at home, whenever we travel together, whenever she's there on tour, she always tells me it's important to say what you feel. Because I am a guy who just sits quiet and doesn't say much. She is like, "As a celebrity, as a sportsperson, it's important to say what you feel." She also helps me keep researching new things, so I can get some knowledge about what's going on around me.
Not yet. Maybe in the West Indies series they will be surprised. (Smiles)
We gel well together. This group has been playing together for the last two to two and a half years together. We have a good combination, we enjoy with each other not only on the field but off the field. We go out for dinner, go out for lunch, sometimes we just talk not only about cricket but in general about what's going on in the world. I think that journey together is what we have. We enjoy each other's success in the team. Things like these actually help you stay together and build the team. You get to know so many different things about different players and their character, how they think about certain thing.
Competing with each other would be the wrong word. I think we help each other. That's the right word. During our fitness sessions, during our net sessions, we try and help each other to improve our game and improve our fitness. We motivate each other - that's the important thing.
From those 17 to 19 Tests I really learnt a lot. I was fortunate be there with those legends. That time everyone - Sachin paaji, Viru bhai [Sehwag], [VVS] Laxman bhai, Rahul bhai - was playing. I learnt a lot about how to approach different situations and how to react to them. Carrying drinks is a very good thing. You are helping your team-mate. I actually wanted to run on the field every time and give water to my team-mates. And sometimes you have discussions on the field. When you give water to your team-mates, they tell you about the conditions and that this is what is happening.
It's important to stay fit all the time. We play so many games throughout the year. As an individual it's your responsibility to look after your fitness, look after yourself and look after your diet as well. If you want to play 15 to 20 years you will have to sacrifice certain things.
No, I don't. I have never used it on anyone and I hope I don't ever have to use it. (Chuckles)
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun