You didn't get many runs in the first two Tests. Were you more eager than usual when you walked out to bat in the third Test?
If you have not got runs in a few games, the eagerness is normal. You know you have been batting well and it spurs you on to try and get a big one. When you have the opportunity, you must cash in and get as much as you can. Eagerness is not the only thing that drives you. In the situation we were in, it was easy to push oneself. It was the series-deciding match and you had the chance to get a big score. There are different triggers and motivations in different circumstances and at different stages. It was not hard to motivate oneself because one knew there was a big prize waiting at the end of the road.
You have to switch on and off - that's a skill that you learn over a period of time. But you can't let yourself relax, or be hard and critical and keep pushing yourself, the body and mind to new limits. It is a challenge. Here was a situation that let me push myself, beat the mind and find a wind.
You make it sound easy. How do you find that second wind?
You have to constantly be in dialogue with yourself and your partner. You talk a lot to yourself, have different triggers, like tell yourself to bat the remaining 25 minutes to the end of the session. Play one ball at a time. Set yourself small goals and enjoy the process of batting and the contest - with yourself and the opposition - to try and win this.To do the best and make the most of chances.
You've made three double-hundreds this season. What are you doing differently?
I am doing the same things better. I know I am batting well but am making it count. I am not relaxing and am concentrating over longer periods of time. I wish I knew the answer so that I could use it all the time. Just make them count. When you get one big innings, it spurs you on. Take [Virender] Sehwag, for instance. The 195 he got in Australia was the catalyst that drove him to the triple-hundred. It makes you want to do it again and again.
A series win here will make a huge difference to how we perceive our cricket and how we are regarded. We have achieved a lot over a period of time. It is a challenge when we set out to achieve something and then actually achieve it
You're also fitter than ever. How much does this help when it comes to concentration?
Yes, it helps you bat at optimum levels for longer periods. It doesn't help you play the cover-drive or the sweep better but helps you perform at your best for long spells. A systematic routine.
What targets did you set yourself when you resumed on the third day on 134?
I do not set myself a target in terms of runs. We did not want to lose a wicket in the first session. We knew the bowlers would tire after lunch and we could cash in on that.
Of all your double-centuries was this the one where it was most difficult to concentrate?
It now seems the toughest. I was on the field for all but one ball till I got out. Adelaide was special and the 180 in Kolkata was testing too - I was sweating a lot and cramping. It is hard to rate these innings one over the other but yes, now that I think about it, this one was the toughest.
Somehow things begin to happen when you and [Sourav] Ganguly are running together ...
Sourav and I have played a lot of cricket together from our junior days and it is strange that we don't seem to inspire confidence [with our running between the wickets]. We have to keep working on it. We just can't seem to put a finger on it.
How do you recover after playing a long knock like this?
I tend to lose a lot of fluids when I am at the wicket for long spells. My fluid intake has to be monitored. I get a massage at the end of the day. We now have an ice bath each evening. I don't watch TV when I am batting. I don't ask for room service. Instead I go down, find some friends in the restaurant and have a meal. I sleep early.
Sehwag and Aakash Chopra have given you great starts. Was it playing on your mind that a makeshift opener was doing the job and that you might be out in the middle sooner rather than later?
Any No. 3 will love to have the chance to put his feet up. Ask any No. 3 in the world and he will tell you the same. Aakash and Viru have given us some nice starts in the last eight Tests and it has always helped to walk in to bat in such scenarios. But we had to do this as a one-off, to be able to give the men in form the chance to bat where they have done well. The settled opener got out early but credit to Parthiv [Patel] that he batted well.
Tell us a bit about the decision to open with Patel.
It was a one-off decision. In an ideal-world scenario, we will have a settled opening pair. Parthiv has shown that he can be very good at No. 7, someone who can make Test hundreds. The next Test is many months away. When the time comes to make a decision, we shall consider all aspects, including having Parthiv to keep wicket and open the innings. We realise that it is never easy to keep wicket and open the batting.
In the past people have been treated indifferently after being dropped. Is this team handling things better?
I sure hope so. It is never an easy thing to do. Only 11 can play and we always have to keep someone out. John [Wright] takes care and has a lot of interest in ensuring that we are a happy party. We have ensured that those not in the 11 get more opportunity at the nets. We try and do things better. We keep learning all the time.
You're very particular about being a role model and having a clean image. How much of a blow was it when you were hauled up for ball tampering in Australia?
It was not the nicest thing to happen but it is a part and parcel of cricket. You can't cry over it. You keep thinking that hopefully it didn't happen but it did. No point in thinking about it in. No excuses. Take it on the chin and move on. I did take time to recover but I have now put it behind me.
What will a series win in Pakistan do for this team?
A series win here will make a huge difference to how we perceive our cricket and how we are regarded. We have achieved a lot over a period of time. It is a challenge when we set out to achieve something and then actually achieve it. It is important from Indian cricket's perspective. It reinforces our belief that we can compete well abroad.
Do you consider yourself the best batsman in the world at the moment?
No. Look at a [Brian] Lara or a [Sachin] Tendulkar. These guys have achieved so much over such a long period of time. They are special players, each a genius. Look at the way they bat, take on so much pressure and the expectations of people. I have done well over the last couple of seasons but I don't go around rating batsmen. I guess I am one of the few successful batsmen over the last couple of seasons.
Is this Indian team the best team you have played in?
We are a better-prepared and confident side. Victories like the ones we have got overseas help the players grow as men. It helps in the development of the side. We are still not there. We can get better, particularly in the bowling department. We are developing. You can say we are a more focussed and better-prepared side than any team of the past.
You've led India in three Tests with three different results. What was captaincy like?
Winning was the best feeling, losing was not fun and the draw wasn't too great either. It's fantastic to lead your country but you know that you are doing it only for a specific duration when the captain is absent. You know it is over the next five or ten days. There is no permanency to it. There will be a difference if there is a permanency. You tend to think a lot differently. It is an honour and a privilege. I shall always cherish the thought that I did lead my country and won a Test match.
Does the team have to make major adjustments to different styles of captaincy?
The team did not have to make any adjustments. It is a reflection of the quality of the side that its performance does not drop drastically irrespective of who is in charge. The guys have been around for a while and adapt well. Things don't change suddenly.