How does it feel to be back for the Tests?
Had I realised that it would take eight years for me to establish myself in Test cricket, I would have given up the idea. It’s been a long struggle.
Would you blame it on form?
Form can be judged if you get to play a number of games. In my case, I got a few games, did well in some, failed in a few, and then got dropped. I made a comeback after a year, scored 170, went to Australia, played two games and got dropped. I’d say it’s lack of opportunity as well as my own mistakes.
How do you combine the grace of a left-hander with the power of a sledgehammer?
It’s God’s gift, but it’s taken me long to realise this talent. What people expect from me and what I expect from myself are two different things.
What were your expectations?
I used to get into a negative mode sometimes, thinking I didn't have a good technique for Tests, that I couldn’t do well in ODIs… my feet were not moving. But the more I played, the more I realised it was more about mental than physical and technical aspects of the game. If you are mentally tough at this level, you can cross any barrier.
Is spin your problem?
If you get out to fast bowlers, it doesn't mean you have a problem facing them. Everyone gets out in one way or the other. I agree I had problems with dominating spinners initially, but since I started sweeping and reverse sweeping, I have started to dictate terms to them as well.
That means (Ajantha) Mendis is an aberration?
He is a difficult bowler, and has got the best batsmen out. It's just that it will take batsmen some time to figure him out, the way it happened with Murali.
It is said your rock star status made you arrogant, that you don’t work much on your game.
I wouldn’t have lasted eight years had I not been working on my fitness and batting. I really don’t care what people say. I just do what I feel is best for me, the team. I have matured over the years and I am happy with the effort I am putting into improving myself as a person & player.
Your expectations now?
I can't explain that, but I want to excel, want to be one of the best players to have played this game. It's not going to happen overnight, half my career is over but the other half is left.
Your batting style suggests that you did not play your formative years on slow tracks?
My father trained me on a matting wicket and made me play with wet tennis balls. That's why I play fast bowling decently. He knew what international cricket is all about, and he prepared me likewise.
Could you take us through the six sixes feat?
Two or three overs were left when I came out to bat. (Andy) Flintoff said something that infuriated me and made me focus hard. These things can backfire but on that day it did not.
You didn't react when England tried to provoke you recently…
I was provoked in Chennai and got out. I realised that if you try to get too aggressive in Tests, you’d get out as there are more fielders in catching positions.
Would call your Chennai innings the most important?
It was for a winning cause, so it's obviously important. But then, the 170 against Pakistan was also special. I was back in the team after a while, we were four down for 70, and I got the runs. To win a Test while batting with Sachin (Tendulkar) was my childhood dream, so that too is very special.
Did you fear failure when you went in to bat in Chennai?
I did feel that I might not get a chance again if I failed here. But I told myself that I had worked really hard for this. I had done well in the ODIs, and there was no reason why I couldn’t succeed in New Delhi.