It's been 10 years since you made your debut. How have these years been?
I honestly never believed I would play for India for so long, so the years have been good to me. I've had my share of ups and downs, but choose to see them all as experiences. The highs would definitely be the two triple centuries and my 200 not out in Galle. It was the first time I had been not out in a first innings and felt great. The absolute low was 2006-2007, 2007 really, when I was left out of the team.
Sourav and Zaheer both said being out made them stronger…
It hurt very badly. I kept practicing, worked on my fitness and learnt to differentiate between those who really cared and others. Some sent me SMSes, told me to work hard, that I would be back; they kept my spirits up. I realised that if you're with the Indian team, you have lots of friends, many disappear when you're out.
And when you look back at the year since your comeback?
I don't look back. It's not in my nature to brood over the past, complain, even when I was dropped. So even though the year was good, I'm not looking back at it. I want to live in the present and for the future. That's the way I am.
How has fatherhood been?
It's been a complete learning experience! I am far more responsible now than I ever was, in every way. Handling a child is an education. My son has shown me that you might be anyone, have done anything, but with a child, you follow his lead. He will eat when he wants, sleep when he wants and you wait for him. My son has taught me the value of patience, that’s helped my cricket too.
You’ve played with seven-eight partners at the top. What makes you and Gambhir tick?
The relationship we have on and off the field, the way we are. We have a similar attitude to the game, to life. Like neither worries over what people say. I didn’t really know him while playing domestic cricket and when he first played internationally, he was in and out. But people like Aakash (Chopra) and Mithun (Manhas) told me about him, so when he came back, we clicked. We started spending time together, having dinners and the more I learnt about him, the more I liked. He’s shy generally but talkative with me. He helps others and is a good human being. It'’s rare to find a cricketer who's a good human being, so it's good to have him around.
New Zealand's swinging, seaming conditions have always been tough for Indians. But conditions don’t bother you. How do you view this coming tour?
Last time around, the wickets were seaming and I struggled in the Tests. I couldn’t wait for the ODIs to begin and do better. But the wickets seamed equally in the ODIs and I struggled before finally deciding I would wait for the bad balls and play my shots. I couldn't do anything about the wicket; but I could watch for the first five-six overs and then play my shots. I got two tons with that attitude. This time too, that's my plan.
Will India feel pressure under the unusual tag of being favourites on a Kiwi tour?
No, not at all, not this team. We are playing so well and have a very good chance to make history, much like in Australia, in Sri Lanka. We have a challenge yes, but it's one we can definitely take up and win.
Does video-analysis help someone like you, who insists on playing his natural game?
(laughs) Seriously, it does help a lot. When I see videos of my 100s 50s, I watch my stance, to see what I did. I would talk to (team video-analysts) Ramki (Ramakrishnan) and now, Dhananjay, they would compare my stances, suggest adjustments. I don’t bother about the small things, whether my bat comes forward, the head position… I don’t overdo it. I’m comfortable if I have the stance right.
Without getting into the seniors and juniors tag, you're a bridge between generations…
I don’t believe in seniors and juniors either, but yes, some of us are lucky to have experiences to share. I am willing to share mine with younger players, if they want me to. If they like what I say, they’ll take it on board. Nowadays though, fewer youngsters need advice, the atmosphere is totally different from five years ago . The IPL is like an international event, you get used to crowds, the attention. A good IPL showing can get you an India call. It’s not like when we played Duleep, Ranji games in front of empty stands. Life is different.
And your relationship with Dhoni — you were once called the future India captain.
We have a good relationship. It doesn’t matter who is captain. My job, everyone's job really, is to make suggestions to the captain and team management. If they like it, they’ll use it, otherwise, you move on. But he’s a very good captain, he gives you space, backs players even if they are not doing well, that’s a big quality.