Excerpts from an interview...
You've seen a rough patch. What's going on inside your mind?
My mind and heart tells me 2018 is going to be my year and I'm really confident about it.
So, what's been central to your preparation for South Africa?
Preparation. That's been the central part to everything. When you talk about Test cricket, it's all about preparation.
How have you dealt with your recent struggle?
Look at it in a broader sense. This isn't just about someone playing cricket or any sport for that matter. In life, we go through ups and downs, fall and then get up again. We learn to deal with things as they come, work our way through the rough patches. How we deal with those phases is crucial. In my mind, if you give some amount of important to the successes you've achieved in life, the same amount of importance needs to be given to the failures that come your way. I don't take either of it very seriously, as long as I'm learning along the way.
And you've certainly ended up learning from this...
This phase has actually taught me a lot, on and off the field on how I need to go about with my cricket from here, how to remain calm when things don't go your way. What I'm trying to do right now is to remind myself of the processes I followed when things were going my way and keep repeating them.
South Africa in South Africa can be a very different, very tough experience. They know their home and how to make use of the conditions. We have to start the series well. That's very important. You need that momentum to be with you and it'll happen when we hit the right buttons in Cape Town.
India's bowling unit has shaped up well too...
Our bowling unit has shaped up really well. We have a great variety and the ability to keep picking 20 wickets. The best thing about this attack is they communicate really well.
After the series against Sri Lanka ended, what did you do until your departure to SA?
A week ago, me and Pravin sir (Amre) started our preparations. I was coming from a poor patch and it was important for me to not keep thinking about it. That's precisely what I discussed with him (Amre). The other day I was just sitting by myself, thinking about what I used to do in such situations, when things didn't go my way. We just created those (match) situations and I got busy playing a game of virtual cricket inside my mind. I kept going to through several such match situations inside my mind.
You and Amre share a great connect. Can you tell us how it has helped you?
The connect began a long time ago, prior to my U-19 days. We became closer when he was our Ranji coach (Mumbai). I remember one occasion, when I was going through a similar bad patch in First Class cricket and he called me. 'This is the time to work harder', he said. 'Everytime you don't see something going your way, just raise the bar and put in twice the effort', he said. I've only tried to follow that line all along. He always helped me remain grounded and in touch with reality.