At what point in the pitcher’s run and his approach to the wicket, do you decide I’m going to pick this up or ramp up or swing him in the middle of the wicket?
At the number I hit, it allows me to watch all the bowlers and allows me to plan when I’m sitting in the dugout. When I go indoors, it’s all about execution. I also watch videos of opposing bowlers a day before the game, sleep on them and visualize how I will play.
Other than watching videos, what are your pre-game routines? Is there a particular number of balls you like to play in the net the day before a game?
For the past four years I have followed a routine that has worked well for me. A day before the game, I like to take a day off. I train only two days before the day before the match. The day before the game, I just hang out with my wife and don’t talk about cricket at all. She helped keep my feet on the ground, whether I did well or not. She drilled into my head that I must stay the same whether I did well or not.
Your debut in Motera, the hundred in Nottingham, the half-century in Saint-Kitts or the fifty in Jaipur against New Zealand. Which move is most special to you?
The first in Motera will always be dear to me because he was in a winning cause. My shots in St. Kitts against West Indies recently and last year against New Zealand in Jaipur are also close to my heart as they all contributed to a winning cause. Nottingham would have been number one if we had won the game.
I would like to ask you about your bat. Do you change it between rounds? What weight do you use?
I don’t like switching bats during an inning. There is no fixed bat that I go out with. I’m not someone who will walk away with a bat that I used in the previous game in which I scored a 50 or a century. I only carry three or four bats because I don’t want to be confused. The weight of my bats is between 1.5 and 1.6 kg.
Some of the shots you play are really rubber ball shots, aren’t they? Especially those behind the square and behind the goalkeeper.
Yes, I have played a lot of rubberball cricket in my colony (BARC) on hard, cemented open spaces. Bowlers used to just throw the ball. One side of the boundary used to be 90–95 meters and the other 45 meters. All those scoops, top cuts, movies were learned there by seeing the dimensions of the floor. I have never practiced these shots in front of a bowling alley. It’s all in my muscle memory and it comes out in the games.
You are on the T20 WC team in Australia where the pitches will be harder and more bouncy. Any practice drills you’ve incorporated or new moves you’ve developed to get it right?
This will be my first time visiting Australia. But I spoke a lot with Rohit, especially since the start of the English series, about the pitches and the behavior of the ball. I like to play on fast tracks. I think my game is suited for fast, bouncing wickets.
The challenge will be the size of the terrain. We have to be smart there. I prepare accordingly and try to play straighter and add more strokes in front of the wicket. I hope I can get them to play.
You had the most outings at No. 4 having hit 12 times, you even opened the innings and played well at No. 3, what is your ideal number and why? What do you feel most comfortable doing? Ricky Bridge says you should play number 4, many Indian experts say opening is the best role for you? Some say #3? Where do you feel most comfortable?
I loved hitting in all positions: 1, 3, 4, 5. I think number 4 is a good position for me. The situation in which I go to bat allows me to control the game. I had the most fun when I batted between overs seven and 15. I try to be positive in this phase. I’ve seen a lot of games where teams have great power play and solid finishing, but I think the most important period in a T20 game is eighth to 14th. You have to press harder on the pedal in this phase. I try not to play too many risky shots. I try to play cover and try to cut the point, run hard and keep the scoreboard going so after the 15th the finishers don’t have a problem finishing the game. #4 is also a tough position to beat, which is why I like it.
You have remarkably improved your offside game over the past three years. What triggered this?
2018 is the year things changed. I had an exceptional season with MI. I said to myself, yes it was a good season, but how to do even better. Preparations began almost immediately. I started practicing against quality spinners and fast bowlers and analyzed what shots I can play when I’m not hitting on the power play. I knew I wouldn’t open. I had to take my game forward. I started practicing in all of these areas and I like how things turned out.
The ability and confidence to hit the first ball for a six or a four. Have you done it so many times?
I try to walk in the ground with strong, energetic body language. When someone comes out, I try to run towards the field. During those 30 or 40 seconds, I also warm up and the game plan starts spinning in my head. I see the field and I try to analyze what they are going to do. So when I face the first ball, if it’s there to come out of the ground, it has to come out of the ground. This is how I like to show my authority. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. The intention is important from the first ball. How you see the game is also important. If it’s 50 for 4, you can’t just go in and start hitting. But if it’s 150 for 2, you have to go in and keep the tempo. My mantra is simple, play the format and the situation and if there is to hit, go for it, whatever the terrain.
Can you break down the thought process and execution of the next four sixes you achieved? One by Jofra Archer (Motera, 2021), one by Shaheen Afridi (Dubai, 2021), one on Aijaz Khan (Dubai 2022) and the other on Joseph Alzarri (Saint-Christophe, 2022)?
Jofra’s was completely instinctive. He knew I was making my batting debut. Bowlers like to hit that hard pitch against new hitters. I was prepared for this length. But I don’t know what would have happened if it had been a Yorker (laughs). I expected the first ball to be on the body and it would be nice and short. I didn’t hit hard. I just timed him and his pace got the ball off the ground.
The Shaheen six in Dubai was played thinking we needed runs as we had lost the first two wickets and needed to put the pressure back on and finish the power play on a high by getting 35 runs.
Against Alzarri Joseph in St. Kitts, the short ball didn’t work, but the hard length did. It was a predetermined success. He hit him long and I used the wind and the short boundary to hit him further.
The Aijaz Khan six over the middle wicket was actually hit when I was beaten at length and I didn’t expect him to play a fast yorker. But I timed it and the quality of my bat got it off the ground even though I lost my balance and fell.
You have a love for tattoos. Did you make any new ones?
Two of them. Evil eye that my wife told me to have. The other is a lion. A calm.
There is a recent trend in your layoffs where you continued to play. A reason for this?
Yes. This also happened in net sessions. Maybe I play too much at the counter. I need to play straighter when the wicket is true and focus more on drives and punches.