It's always a great feeling. Doesn't matter how long you have played. When you are appreciated for something you have been able to achieve, it is a satisfying feeling.
It is definitely one of the best spells I have faced. There was good movement off the seam, in the air. Dale Steyn moves the ball consistently. Also something that was alarming was the off-the-wicket movement. Even if you felt the ball was coming straight to you, off the wicket it was moving significantly. That was something one had to be aware of.
I don't know. There is no one particular formula as such. I am a batsman who goes by the feel. If I feel like doing certain things, I just do them. In that particular innings, in the middle of my innings I felt I could stand outside the crease, and I did that. Just to cut the movement and bounce. And I felt comfortable doing that. Against any good, high-class seam or swing bowling, one needs to stay as still as possible and play as late as possible. Whatever the movements are, they need to be precise. Sometimes too many movements can complicate things, sometimes not moving enough can also get you in trouble. Whatever is needed to play the ball, only that much movement is important. That is what I was focusing on.
"I am a batsman who goes by the feel. If I feel like doing certain things, I just do them. In that particular innings, in the middle of my innings I felt I could stand outside the crease, and I did that"
It is to do with sessions. There were certain shots which I felt I should not be playing in the first hour, and there were certain shots which I felt, maybe after that, I could go ahead and play them. If you observe that innings, there are certain shots I played around lunch time, and the same length deliveries I let them go in the morning. It is the freshness of the wicket in the morning. Just the first spell, as you expect, at that stage I felt that first spell was going to be decisive in which direction the Test match goes. Both of us survived that first spell. The important hour, as we say, we won that, I felt.
It's not one-way traffic. It's not that only the batsmen are supposed to go out and score runs. The bowlers are also supposed to get wickets. Sometimes we end up hitting brilliant shots, sometimes bowlers bowl brilliant balls. We have to respect that and forget about it and focus on the next ball. But also remember what the wicket has done, or what the ball has done off the wicket or in the air. Keep that in mind and focus on the next ball.
Not really. Because I had batsmen on the other end. There is no conscious effort to do that when you have a proper batter at the other end.
We were enjoying it. Gautam was at the other end, and we just said, this is a beautiful session, enjoy this challenge. On not many occasions do these things happen in your career. I remember a similar thing happening to me in Mumbai, when we played Australia [in 2001]. I was batting with Rahul [Dravid]. From one end Jason Gillespie bowled, and from the other end Glenn McGrath. And I played all the overs of Glenn McGrath, and Rahul played all the overs of Jason Gillespie. We hardly must have rotated strike. Similar situation, but those are the moments you never forget in life. This is definitely one of them.
Harbhajan walked in and he started to play like a proper batsman - wanting to move his feet and all that. And I said, "Don't do that. You need to play your shots and play whatever you feel like. Whenever you pick the line and length early enough, play your shots." Because he was looking to play like a batsman and it wasn't working for him. The moment he got back to normal Harbhajan Singh, he was able to play some big shots. That sort of disturbed the field setting, and that is what we wanted. We needed to score those crucial runs.
Yes. It was an important partnership in the Test. We scored about 50-60 runs. Those runs were really important.
There are different challenges as you go. Different oppositions. Different strengths and different stages. In the last 20 years that I have played, I have had oppositions that have had different strengths. You have to plan your strategy accordingly. The challenge here was to deal with the steep bounce of the Cape Town wicket. That wicket had spongy bounce. I wouldn't call it a fast wicket as such, but it really had steep bounce and lateral movement. That was one challenge we had to deal with.
It's news to me. But I know that normally new years greet me well. Something nice. Good habit to get into.
It helps when you have had a long day's fielding. You look at the mountain and appreciate the beauty. Nature has done something absolutely fabulous. Otherwise you are focused so much on the game you don't notice all those things. Only when you have long fielding days. That's when you look at these things.
Not really. No, no, you notice all that, but there is not much time. You are constantly focusing and thinking also, even when on the non-striker's end, thinking what the other batsman should be doing. As a non-striker, I like to make observations. If I feel that there are areas where he has to be cautious, or where he is really doing well, share that with him and tell him, "You have been batting brilliantly. Just continue." Sometimes you feel a player needs to change his game or tighten up a bit. As a non-striker you are making those observations. Sometimes in between overs, or after the over, you are constantly exchanging opinions. Your views. That becomes critical in a partnership.
I thought we were really going well. All we needed that time was for the non-striker to come and say, "This is perfect. Continue. Keep it tight. Don't play loose shots." Which is normal in partnerships. Let the non-striker know what you think of that particular over. Or if he is in any doubt, or if I am in any doubt - we discuss all those things.
There were boundaries. First over, Dale Steyn. Bowled brilliant balls but I managed to hit boundaries. It is about when you feel you should be able to press the pedal. And counterattack occasionally. Sometimes you need to respect that particular spell.
"Somebody sitting in the stands or in the commentator's box wants me to hit a boundary. Why should I do it? I have to score runs, I need to make my decisions. You have to play according to what you feel. That's what you have been picked for"
Not really. That wasn't the kind of surface where you could target someone. There was constantly something happening.
And also, you know, the bowlers… the first spell and the second spell are not the same.
No, we didn't. I am hearing his reaction for the first time, from you. But my reaction would be the same. It was fantastic playing against him. I had to respect him for what he was doing. Somebody is bowling well, you have to respect it. You try to be over-smart, you go back to the dressing room.
No. It's not between two individuals, it's between the two nations. I play for India. It's not what an individual feels. It's about what an individual can bring to his team. That is more important.
I didn't share much with my team-mates. But definitely, looking at Gautam's reaction, we both felt the same. That this is one of the best sessions that we have been part of.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo