How's your back doing now?
It's much better now and I am practising, you could say almost regularly. But I can only confirm my exact status after I have spoken to the officials and got their clearance. That is the regulation. But, yes, my back is much better and I think I am responding very well to the treatment.
When did you exactly realise that you had a serious problem out there?
I was getting a lot of pain for a long time. Even while taking my stance, I was feeling a lot of pressure. It came to the forefront during the Chennai Test match, while playing the second innings. It hurt a great deal.
What did the doctor in England say when he saw it?
He thought this was the result of over-exertion and stress. He told me that I would have to take a break for a while and let it heal. That it would take some time and serious attention.
All I needed was some rest. A break from the game for a few days.
Do you think it could affect your style of batting, your posture? That you may have to make changes in your game?
No, I don't think so. It hasn't done so as yet. But I guess I needed this break. I needed to take some rest from the game and come back with my back set right.
How do you see India's chances of winning the WorldCup?
Good. We have a very fine team. Our bowling attack is very good, very strong, like last time. Plus, we have quite a few batsmen who can also bowl. In 1983, we had Mohinder Amarnath who could also bowl. That really helped us. We had Kirti Azad, he could bowl offspin. Then there was Sandip Patil. That was a great help. This time, we have the same advantage. We have Saurav, Robin Singh and me. Batsmen who can also bowl. I think this should be an added strength.
Our bowling attack is very strong as well. Srinath, Prasad, Agarkar, Kumble and whoever else they pick up. With Saurav, Robin Singh and me backing them, and even Ajay can bowl sometimes, we have a formidable bowling strength out there. The conditions are such that I am sure it will suit our kind of play.
You mean a good bowling attack will determine who wins the World Cup?
It will be a great help if we get a good number of runs. It will allow our bowlers to bowl for those fifty overs without any pressure (on them). We will, of course, have to analyse the wicket first. Only then can we determine how to play the game. Here on the subcontinent you have to score a minimum of 280 runs to remain in the game. In England, I think 210 or 220 runs can be a winning total.
Who do you think will pose the toughest competition to India winning the World Cup? Who will be our main rival?
Well, I think we have got to be on our toes all those days out there. We cannot afford to underestimate any of our opponents. We have to go out there and fight it out every day. A couple of bad hours can change the whole course of the game. We must recognise this and keep the pressure on all the time. That is the only way to win in this game.
Do you think our batting is a bit unpredictable at times and, if the start is faulty, tends to break down suddenly?
I don't think so. If that is true, it is true for all the sides in the world. We have to leave all that behind and turn a new leaf. Rahul Dravid, Saurav, me, Azhar, Ajay have all played in England. English playing conditions are not exactly unknown to us. They are not strange for us. We know what to expect. I am sure we are all capable of getting the runs out there. All we have to do is believe in ourselves.
All we have to do is try very, very hard. I don't have to say this but everybody is looking forward to playing. We are ready. We are going to go all out to win.
With so much of hype and hoopla about the World Cup, so much of pressure on the team, on you to perform miracles day after day on the field, do you feel a sense of nervousness? Do you feel a bit psyched out?
It is the last World Cup of the century and naturally everybody is so excited about it. They are also excited about it because we have such a good chance of winning it. Everyone's looking forward to an exciting series of matches and every team is ready to go all out for winning the trophy. It will be a very interesting tournament to watch.
But doesn't this put a great deal of pressure on the team? Performance anxiety?
No, it doesn't put that much of pressure on the team as such. We treat it as any other match. Any other international match. Because if we start treating this as a special game we will be putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. This won't do any good for us or for our game. So it is much better to treat it like any other international match, any other important tournament and do our best to win.
We must know what we are there for and do our best to achieve that. No more pressures are warranted. No more pressures are required.
Don't you think we are playing too much of cricket already? This forced R&R for you must be reviving in that sense. How much can one play without losing one's sense of fun and excitement?
To recharge your batteries, you must have some time to yourself. I agree with you, that is important.
What do you do when you aren't playing cricket? What were you doing your recent layoff?
Catching up with myself. I was at home most of the time. I was playing a little bit. Practising. I was in England for a while, getting my treatment done.
There are many things I cannot do in normal times. Like meeting old friends and talking to them. I did that after a long time and it feels good. I feel very much rested.
What do you think of the new batch of players India has fielded?
To be very fair, Pritish, I have not seen enough of any of these guys. I know Khurasia is a very good player but I have not seen much of him. I have also heard a lot about Virender Sehwag. He is a good batsman. Yes, I think we have some good players waiting in the wings.