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A survey that you commissioned in association with PUMA found that one-third of those surveyed (between 18-40 years) had not indulged in any physical activity in the past year. That means no running, going to the gym or playing a sport. That’s worrying.
That’s not just worrying, it’s disastrous. If I wasn’t engaged in any physical activity for a year, I don’t think I would be alive. Even if I was not playing professional cricket, I can’t imagine myself not doing any physical activity at all. The survey conducted across 18 cities also shows that people are spending four to five hours every day on the mobile phone. Technology and social platforms rather than being helpful are starting to become harmful for a lot of people. People are losing sense of what are the important things to do, what are the things they need to do for their mental and physical development. When I was growing up, we got together in the evening and played in parks and housing societies. During weekends we used to go to sports complexes and spend the whole day there. We used to find things to do. That used to be a big part of our culture.
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What’s the way out?
I played a lot of cricket or badminton when I was young because it gave me immense joy. I did not know then that I was going to be a professional cricketer. I used to watch sports on TV and try and replicate the moves. To save money, we used to create our own courts using tapes, and hammer nails into the ground to mark them out. That used to give us a lot of happiness. And that’s the key thing to find.
What made you take up physical fitness seriously?
My reason was totally different. It had to do with playing at a certain level in professional sport. I realised in the process that when I started getting fitter, I started thinking better. I had more confidence, clarity, focus and determination. And I started feeling that inside me as soon as I changed my physical regime. That’s when I began to think that everybody should be doing this. Getting fitter makes you confident overall. It makes you feel good about yourself. You need to feel good to have good thoughts. And then came about this idea of pushing people towards fitness to make them understand why this is so important.
What would be your counsel to children playing games on smartphones?
Prioritise. Have a routine…when you need to do physical work, when you need to be on social media, when you need to play video games, and when you need to do your homework.
As someone used to handling pressure situations in cricket, how would you advise students to deal with stress and handle exam pressure?
Even during my board examinations, I would find the time to go and play. That would relieve my stress. That would give me a lot of joy, made me think positive and look forward to studying again.
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How would you rank them in order of merit for your success: talent, discipline, fitness, hard work and self-belief?
I would only count two things here: Self-belief and hard work. I feel everyone has ability. What you do with it is what matters. It requires hard work and a belief in yourself that you can do it on a daily basis.
What are the memories of your first day in the Indian dressing room?
I clearly remember sitting with my mom and watching the news on the day of the selection meeting. My name just flashed on the TV but I thought they might just be spreading a rumour or something like that. Then five minutes later, I got a call from the Board that I had been selected. I got goosebumps. I was shaking. It was a very special day.
I clearly remember walking into the team meeting. I was asked to give a speech in the team room. It was nerve wracking for me with so many great Indian players there. They were looking at me. Which we now do to younger guys to intimidate them, make them nervous (smiles). These are my first memories.
What teaches more, victory or defeat?
Defeats. 100%. Victories don’t teach you anything. All the bad phases in my life have made me a better person. A lot of people not needed in your life get filtered. You know what their priorities are when you hit a low. I actually feel grateful when I go through a low time. It has helped me out over the years.
Is hitting a triple hundred one of your goals?
The only goal is to win games. That’s the goal of other persons, not me.