Are you happy with the team’s practice sessions?
Yeah, definitely. We’ve had quite a few sessions, almost six or seven, in which we have played practice games (too). It doesn’t feel like a lockdown anymore.
With so many positive cases within the IPL bio bubble, especially in the CSK team, is there a growing sense of anxiety?
There’s no scare in the team, but when we talk to guys outside the bubble, we see to it that we maintain distance. It is actually impossible, as a human being, to be always aware about what you’re doing because this (the coronavirus) is an unprecedented event.
Do the cricketers have to wear the tracker at all times?
Yes, we have to keep it on our person always, whether we go for breakfast or meet anyone in the team.
How was the interaction within the squad during quarantine?
The team has been gelling. We had a few zoom-call sessions during the six-day quarantine. We also had a small session with a magician and he involved all the players. We have to follow all the protocols and rules, so we keep ourselves entertained. We have a gaming room too!
You were already captaining DC when your place in the Indian team had not been cemented. Are you more comfortable in the role now?
I was comfortable last year too. I had two big minds in my team, Sourav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting. They made my job easy. This time, having been consistent in the Indian team, it gives me a lot of pride and also responsibility as a player to be captaining such an amazing team. It has given me a sense of belief that I can really dominate at this position and also win everyone’s hearts at the same time.
As a young captain, is it sometimes a problem when you have too many strategists, like it is in any IPL team?
I wouldn’t say it’s a big problem…it does get in a lot of ideas, a lot of advice and opinion. End of the day, it is important what the captain and coach think.
You will be captaining many experienced players like Dhawan, Ishant, Rahane and Ashwin. As a youngster, is that difficult sometimes?
You know all of them, they are great team guys. They don’t complain about anything. They never go against my decisions because they know I am a young captain and also, it’s important to support me at the same time. Their experience really matters to me because I can go up to them and ask them for advice and opinion. I don’t judge anyone in the team. I talk to seniors or juniors in the same tone. I don’t change my tone. My respect is equal for everyone in the team.
Are you in favour of giving a player a long rope, or do you believe, like some other captains, in constant chopping and changing?
It depends on the combination, what form the current player is going through. We are going through some simulations and practice games to get to know who is in the best form and who is really hitting the ball well.
Will finger spinners have more of a say on the low, slow UAE pitches?
Spinners are going to play a major rule because the wickets are pretty much slow at the start. But you never know, wickets can change any time. Currently, it’s a two-paced wicket here. It’s really difficult to judge before the tournament.
What do Shimron Hetmyer and Marcus Stoinis bring to the table?
We know how good they are in crunch situations. Plus, they’re coming out of match scenarios and have been playing consistently.
The IPL has played a big role in propelling your career. Has it helped your evolution as a batsman too?
A few years ago, I made a certain pattern about my batting. Now I know when to take singles and when to change my game. So you know, looking at greats like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni… I picked up a few qualities from all of them and tried to replicate those in my batting.
How difficult was it when people were talking about a missing No. 4 at the World Cup and you were not picked?
I was enjoying the moment. I was performing, so I was content. There were a few ups and downs, but I’m glad those happened at an early stage because they taught me a lot of things as an individual. I learnt a lot from my failures.
Your record in domestic cricket doesn’t suggest you ever failed…
I still remember a phase when I wasn’t consistent. I was scoring runs but in bits and pieces. My average didn’t drop, but as a player I wasn’t satisfied from within. But now when I look at myself, I know I’ve been performing in every game.
You had a stint with the Trent Bridge team back in 2014-15, and came back a more consistent batsman…
I got the motivation from the 2014 U-19 World Cup. We lost in the quarterfinal against England and I wasn’t playing that game. I thought, if I had played I could have helped my team win. And I told myself that no matter what, I’m going to become a very good player and I want to play for India one day.
So I went to England, and it taught me how to become responsible as a person. I was staying by myself and doing all the chores. I was all alone and it literally taught me how difficult life is without family. I got more responsible in terms of my decision-making and my acts towards others.
You were quite active on social media during the lockdown. Do you feel there’s been a change, post-Covid, in how cricketers express their feelings online?
Definitely. I think it (social media) is very important for players, especially when you’re used to staying under the sun for six hours. I thought of making funny videos and keeping myself busy. I saw other players doing the same thing, so it was entertaining. In a way, it was like a fresh start for us, a good opportunity to showcase our talent outside cricket!
Does the social media thing come naturally to you? How careful are you while using it?
I would say acting comes naturally to me! (About being) careful, I would say yes, it’s all about what message you’re giving to your fans and people who are following you. So in that terms, I have to be careful, but other than that, I feel I only post fun stuff, so I don’t have to worry too much about what I’m spreading out there.