The Outlook Interview 

 "I was confident Iíd return"

Classy, sparkling strokeplay, impeccable in defence, awesome powers  of concentrationóthe masters of the game, Sunil Gavaskar, Richard   Hadlee, Ian Chappell et al, couldnít stop gushing. But, how else could you describe Rahul Dravidís career-best 190 at Hamilton, a knock that not only saved a Test, but helped him emerge from a niggling shadow of  doubt. A doubt that crept intoóand threatened to overwhelmóthe  26-year-oldís batting ever since he was eased out of Indiaís one-day plans. No longer. Dravid has silenced his critics with a 490-minute gem in the first innings, and followed it up with an unbeaten 103 in the second to become only the third Indian batsman after Vijay Hazare and  Sunil Gavaskar to hit two centuries in a Test. Aniruddha Bahal caught up with the stylish Dravid at Taupo, New Zealand, last Friday on the eve of the first one-dayer, where he talked about his cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, his high average (54.67). 


How satisfying was your 190 at Hamilton followed by a second century?
It was a good knock, not as satisfying as my first century in South Africa but close enough. The first one is always much more emotional. In pure batting terms, people tell me I played much better here than in South Africa. But these are things that you can never judge yourself in a way. The second innings century was the easiest I have ever scored. But you have to take whatever runs you can get. When things are going in your favour itís better to capitalise.

Recently you have been in and out of the one-day squad. How does it affect you mentally? And you did bat in Hamilton as if you  had a point to prove.
I have never gone out to prove a point. I have just tried to do my best. I  accepted not being in the one-day side as a challenge. Not being in the side was obviously not a very comfortable situation to be in. But it didnít shatter me or anything. I had the confidence, however, that I would return.

But surely it must be tough mentally. Anybodyís confidence would take a few knocks.
I have done well in one-day cricket earlier. I have some very good knocks to my credit. Itís just that when I came back I didnít get any good games and since the focus was on me I possibly came out the worse. Thatís all that there is to it. These games can happen to anybody.

Your average in tours abroad is one of the highest by any Indian batsman. Even higher than Sachinís and Sunnyís. How do you account for that?
Maybe itís because I enjoy touring. I relish the special challenge of coming good in alien conditions. Itís also just the beginning. Itís just these three years that have been good. I hope I can keep this record going.

How do you prepare yourself for a game? Whatís your gameplan?
I start doing it from a couple of net sessions before the game. Basically, you come to know which bowlers are going to bowl and what I do is try to practise what I am going to come across. If itís a wicket that will aid seam I will play tight. The wicket might be one where I  might have to cut and pull more. You have to keep into account the  kind of bowling you will face and the strategies they might have used against you in the past. Like if I was to play Chris Cairns and Simon Doull I would keep in mind my experience from the second Test. That this particular bowler tried this initially and then graduated to that. What I have to go through mentally is what I can do on that type of wicket  against that particular attack and what I cannot do. I try to simulate a
similar bowling attack in the nets. I might tell Srinath to bowl me more of a particular line and length.

Is that all?
What I try to do basically is enhance my focus and concentration. I have a small diary and stuff in which I have some motivational quotes that I keep referring to.

Thatís personal.

How did you react to your one-day failures?
People usually tell you how to handle success, not failure. Thatís even more important. You have to treat every innings as a fresh beginning but thatís easier said than done. If you have scored a zero thereís no law that says that you will score another immediately after. But the thing is that it cannot be learnt. It has to be experienced. If it happens 2-3 times you improve in your handling of the situation. Like, for instance, now I have learnt never to target numbers while I am batting but just to be conscious of how my concentration is going and whether I have prepared enough.

The best bowlers you have faced?
I find Srinath the toughest to play. Also Donald and Wasim. They have all been challenging.

How is it like to bat with Sachin?
He is quite clearly the best. He is going to go down as the best of this era and of many more. He may ultimately have the same impact on the game as Bradman. Both he and Azhar have always been helpful to me. But playing with him you have always to be careful not to attempt some of the stuff that he does. All you will end up doing is make a fool of yourself. What I have always consciously done is tried to maximise my potential in the areas that I think I have a better chance of succeeding. I
cannot bat like Sachin and I shouldnít be trying to.

What about sledging?
I havenít faced much of it to be frank. Whatever little banter that goes on is fine by me. You could even say I enjoy it. You have got to have a human element to the game. Good, natural banter is always welcome. But I have learnt not to react. I mean thatís the best for my game.

Have you given some back, so to speak?
Yes. Games can be frustrating. If someone gets into a long partnership it can be irritating.

A year ago you had said that you would try to convert yourself into a match-winner.
Thatís something I have always aspired to do.

Would that mean getting to be more aggressive?
Not necessarily. In certain situations you have to be (aggressive), not in others. You can change the course of a match with a catch. You see the joy is more if the team wins and not when you do well but the team loses.

Why does India fare so badly abroad? 
You can only really guess. The kind of technique you need to succeed in India as a batsman is totally different from what you need to get runs abroad. In 1997 we went from Kanpur to play within 10 days at Durban where the wicket was the one of the fastest I have ever played on. In  Kanpur I would be getting my left foot across without thinking, so the  ball didnít squeeze through if it stayed low. At Durban I had to be on the back foot right away. Obviously, how quickly you adapt to the situation
determines your success or failure.

What kind of bat do you use? How do you choose it?
Generally, a 2 pound nine ounces bat. Sometimes, a slightly heavier one in one-dayers. Say a 2 by 11. Most cricketers choose bats by  feeling. Itís something you canít explain to a non-professional. I guess the balance and everything just feels right. SG is usually very good at  making them.

What is your ambition in cricket?
To be able to play as long as I can. To be a part of successful Indian  teams abroad.

Your favourite music?
Slow rock. Sting, Phil Collins etc. In Indian I like old Hindi songs.  Kishore Kumar. I normally borrow cassettes on tour. Hardly carry 10 myself. It gets difficult to lug around stuff on tour.

Your childhood idols? And now?
Sunny Gavaskar, Gundappa Vishwanath, Kapil Dev. Now they are  Sachin, Azhar, Srinath and Kumble. From other teams, Steve Waugh.


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