“Feels surreal, never imagined I would play 100 Tests for India”
On the milestone 100th Test
I honestly never thought that I will play 100 Test matches. It’s been a long journey. Played a lot of cricket over the course of these 100 Test matches, lot of international cricket. I am just grateful that I have been able to make it to 100. With the amount of cricket we play in this day and age, God’s been kind. I have worked really hard on my fitness. It’s a big moment for me, my family and my coach, who is happy and proud of this Test as long as I am concerned.
I think my first Test hundred is something I remember very fondly. It’s still very fresh in my memory. That is one day that will be always very, very special. Knowing that it came in Australia will be very special. It was an overseas hundred, for a young guy wanting to establish himself in Test cricket, for the first hundred to come in Australia really boosted my confidence. If you see, my career really took off from there after that Test match and my confidence grew leap and bounds.
On the culture he set in Test cricket
The way people look at Test cricket being played under me as Indian team or just the way I went about playing Test cricket and how I thought and wanted to play Test cricket, it hasn’t happened by chance. I have put in a lot of effort, I have made sure that core moral values when it comes to the game remains intact, which is wanting to play Test cricket and wanting the purest form of the game to stay alive. For that we needed to play in a certain manner.
I have given my heart and soul to this format. It feels great to contribute to my environment and to the culture in bigger ways than just strategies and plans and trying to get batsmen out and trying to manoeuvre bowlers. If you have a bigger impact on your environment, it is a matter of pride and really something to feel blessed about because this opportunity comes rarely to people.
On his stint as India’s Test captain
I’ve had the privilege and the opportunity to create a culture which I think I have set as a leader in the last few years. I have done my job to the best of my abilities and have fulfilled my responsibilities. I look back very proudly on that period. I have played with some amazing team-mates, some of the guys who have shared this journey with me for most number of Test matches.
I clearly remember when I took over Test captaincy, I had this vision for the team that we needed to play certain kind of cricket and we need to be a certain kind of team in international cricket and we ended up achieving that five years in a row. So immensely proud. Just the atmosphere was something magical to be a part of; you entered the dressing room and you felt that you could win anywhere and that feeling was so empowering.
You went to every tour without any baggage, without any nervousness, without any hesitation. It was just opportunity after opportunity and something that when I sat in the dressing room and I looked around I felt like I was able to fulfill my responsibility.
From 2015 to 2020, those five-six years, the kind of Test cricket we played, each one of those tours or games is a special memory in itself. We have had some tough losses; we have had some amazing comebacks. Immensely proud of the whole phase. Looking back at how amazing and magical the journey was, I can’t pin-point one memory. It would be wrong for me to point out winning (a series) in Australia or coming out of England 2-1, potentially getting the trophy back with us. We understand those moments on a daily basis we experience which is far more special than these things.
On staying motivated
I love playing this game. I am still passionate about winning games for my country. That was my prime motivation when I started playing. I wanted to play for India and win matches for my team. That was my single-minded motivation. I continue to be in that phase. The chat around stats and numbers, its fantasy for people on the outside. I never really focused on these things. If I did, I wouldn’t have scored the amount of runs I have scored or achieved the milestones over the past 10-12 years. Your intent has to be right and it keeps on being in the same space and that is winning matches for India.
On playing 100 Tests for India
It feels surreal. I never imagined I would play 100 Tests for India. There was a time where I remember I had told myself I will do anything possible to play for India. Nothing could de-motivate or distract me anymore. I was completely focused on getting to the top and playing for a long period. Things unfolded in a way that the journey kept on going.
Life is unpredictable in many beautiful ways and I don’t think we should put any restrictions on life in terms of how many amazing moments you can witness in the future. You have no idea what the future holds. It is best not to panic or get de-motivated by what might not happen because my career, my life is an example of what is possible.
I hear that crowds have been allowed as well. It’s going to be a special, special morning. There will be some butterflies, I won’t lie. There have to be butterflies till the last game you play for India. They’ve remained for a long period of time and they remain to be.