Long hours of batting with RX [Murali, personal coach] and understanding the fact that 100 is a magical figure but sometimes 100 is not enough. More often than not, you have to go on to score bigger runs than that and have the hunger to continue to bat long. Setting targets for yourself where you are looking at sessions or situations [such that] in a four-day game, your team doesn't have to bat twice. So things like that have really got the best out of me.
It has more to do with understanding that there can only be one Virender Sehwag. Or that he's a different player and has a different game, and I'm a different player and I'll have a different game. A few things might be similar, but the fact that I have a better understanding of my game and knowing what I can do and what is working for me, I think that [helps].
Yes. The previous game I'd got two zeroes. And I wasn't sure, to be honest, if I was going to even be in the side, forget about playing the game. Somewhere, as a batsman, there was that fear of getting out. And when you hit rock bottom you realise there is nothing to lose. It cannot get worse than it already is.
When I played that innings, I had let go of the fear of failure. I wasn't scared of getting out. I said to myself that there was nothing worse that can happen from there on, because I'd hit rock bottom. And then I said, let me go out there, make a plan for myself and then keep going. Let me just get a start. If I can get a start, at least I'll have something to build on.
Yes. Probably the longest.
The first fifty or hundred was a lot of thoughts, a lot of fighting in the head. And I did play a lot more balls to get to that [score] than I normally do. It was more about first looking to get set. I wasn't thinking of getting out, I wasn't thinking of scoring runs, I was just looking to watch the ball and keep playing the ball.
Yes. Because as a cricketer I now understand that you're not going to succeed always. You're not always going to have a great series or a great year. It then becomes important that when you're getting those runs and when you're having a good season, you've got to make it big. Because you know, as a sportsman, that there will be a time where you go through a little lull. And if you have been true and you've worked hard and scored runs when things were going well, it can take the pressure off you. And also you'll have a template to get back to scoring big.
The game against Delhi. They had a great bowling attack. Scoring runs against them was good. But the real big challenge was when we played Railways in Delhi, at the Karnail Singh Stadium. We were 20 for 3 then and Manish [Pandey] and me stitched a big partnership. We took the team through and got a big score. Having confidence and having a template of how I was getting the runs helped there as well.
(Laughs) I don't know. As I said, it's a dream. You know it's never going to happen like that. But yes, in Vizag [against South Africa] when I got a 150, Virat [Kohli] was there at the other end and he said, "Nothing short of a 200 will do. You're batting well, make sure to not just score for yourself but for your team. The team needs to get a bigger score and it's important for you to be there to help us get that score at a faster pace."
"When you hit rock bottom, you realise there is nothing to lose. It cannot get worse than it already is"
The partnership with [Cheteshwar] Pujara was a lot about grit, a lot about fighting when we played against Australia in Australia. The partnership with Rohit [Sharma] against South Africa, the first Test, was a lot about both of us opening for the first time in India. It was just about getting set, understanding home conditions, making use of home conditions and then when we got a big partnership, I think it was more like rediscovering what we can do. Because in the partnership Rohit and I were talking and I said, "I've never reverse-swept." And he said, "Neither have I." So it was discovering a few things. We weren't doing anything risky, but those shots automatically started coming out.
It was that partnership with [R] Samarth [the 304 not out] and with Manish against Railways. Sam [Samarth] was playing really well and fast. And it's usually the other way round - I'm the one who's getting quick runs and getting boundaries a lot more easily. He was talking me through that, said that it could come on a little slower, that you've got to have a little more patience. Because they were obviously bowling well and I wasn't feeling at my best.
Yes. I am very intense when it comes to cricket. That's something I didn't really know about myself. I knew I used to play hard and think a lot, but I never really had that perspective about being an intense person on the field. And then having a full season with Rahul sir [Dravid], he brought that to me. He said, "Mayank, I think you're a very intense guy. You practise a lot and you need to manage your mental energies."
It's very easy for someone to carry what has happened in the previous two hours or in the previous game to the rest of the day, or to whatever is happening next. It's very important to understand that that has gone and not stress about it and not take the negatives out of it, or if you've done well, not feel overly confident.
My process would just be to read a book, keep myself engaged with something. Talk to family. And just think about a lot of things that have gone right, or a lot of good things that have happened. That keeps your mind very positive.
Yes, it does add up. [Dravid] said, "Okay, you're playing a four-day game. You come and day in, day out, two days before the game, you're practising so hard. You're hitting so many balls. So you've essentially played two days even before the game has actually started.
Yes, but I made sure it's under control and not only thinking about it or stressing about it or planning about. So yes, a little thinking. I have watched the games England and New Zealand played and just had a little bit of an idea about what can come when India goes to New Zealand, but [without] getting overly engrossed - understand the challenges and tweak whatever needs tweaking.
Obviously their fast bowling attack and how they operate. Looked into what are the things they do with the new ball, how they come back in the second spell, and how they bowl with the old ball, things like that.
I want to focus more on the process. If I can follow the things that are working for me and do that overseas, why will it not work for me there as well?
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo