What is it about spinners? You seem to just get turned on by them?
I was a middle-order batsman who was too good against spin and hit sixes consistently in Under-19 and Ranji cricket, and I still have the same confidence. Once Gary Kirsten asked me, "What would you do if there is a long-off, long-on and deep midwicket?" I asked, "Gary sir, do fielders matter to me?" He burst out laughing.
Any big hitter, like Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Tendulkar, all can hit a six but they don't want to get out. There is a 1% risk.
Let me give an example: I was batting on 291 at Chepauk, against South Africa. I told Paul Harris, "Come round the wicket and first ball I'll hit you for a six." He accepted my challenge and the very first ball I hit him for a straight six, and there was a long-off, long-on, deep midwicket and a deep point. I was so tired and he was bowling on the pads and I was getting bored. So rather than spending 10-15 minutes to get to the triple-century I gave him good advice.
There is this story about you declining a nightwatchman, where you said you were not an able batsman if you couldn't last 25 balls at the end of the day. Is that true?
It is true. What is the difference between batting at the end of the day or at the start? If you make a mistake you'll get out. So I don't think a batsman really needs a nightwatchman, but it is totally an individual decision. Whenever a captain or coach asked me for a nightwatchman I would say, "No, why? If I can't survive 10 or 20 balls now, then I don't think I'll survive tomorrow morning." I believe that's the best time when you have the opportunity to score runs, when everybody on the field is tired and you can score 20 runs off those 20 balls.
When does the bowler get the upper hand against you?
I can handle swing movement, but when there is seam movement I cannot handle it properly. In New Zealand in 2002 the wickets were really not good for batting and I struggled and scored something like 40 runs in four innings. Nobody did well except for Tendulkar and Dravid. So later I started to spend a lot of time at the wicket. I would cut if it was outside off and flick if it was on my legs. I found out that works on a bad wicket: to stay at the wicket.
John Wright had a simple way with you. In his book he writes, "All I say is, 'How's your mom, hope she is well? And what are you going to do today?'" He [Sehwag] would say, 'Watch the ball, play straight.'
Did Greg Chappell give you any sort of valuable tips?
What about Gary Kirsten?
Sunil Gavaskar and Ian Chappell have always stressed that you are not just about hand-eye coordination. That you can play all those shots because of one important factor: balance.
They are right. It doesn't matter whether you move your feet or not, if your head is still and body is in balance, you can score lots of runs. This I learned from Tendulkar. He pointed out that if your head is still you can see the ball clearly and pick the length quickly. If the head is not still, you will make mistakes. That's why I don't have trigger movements and my body is still and I'm balanced and I have lots of time to play the ball. Why do you want to go towards the ball? Let it come to you, then you can play it. Tendulkar, in one of my first conversations with him about handling quick bowlers, said, "If you're confident about playing a shot, just go ahead and play. Don't hesitate, because then you will make a mistake."
What about being in the zone? Tendulkar said that what people call the zone, he calls the subconscious mind. "… All you need to do is look at the ball and play and the body is going to react. The concentration is such that you don't think of anything else." What's your definition of being in the zone?
I have asked him many times what the zone is. He tells me that's when "I see nothing except the ball". I ask how that is possible. I have never felt something like that. I have asked Rahul Dravid the same thing. He says sometimes when he is in really good form, he sees only the ball - and not the sightscreen, the non-striker, the umpire or who is bowling, he just sees only the ball. But I have never entered that zone even if I've scored triple-centuries twice. Maybe I will enter that zone they talk about in future.
Is there one shot of Tendulkar you would like to have?
His cover-drive, but I don't think I can do that probably because of the lack of feet movement.