Q. How have you been in this lockdown?
A. It has been really difficult but everybody knows that in Kerala, Chief Minister P. Vijayan and Health Minister Shailaja madam are doing a great job. We are doing better, but since more people are now coming on trains, it’s slightly tough. We are very confident that we would win this battle. At a personal level, we are at home. We need to follow the guidelines given to us. My wife and kids keep me busy. My wife has learnt piano and I have started to cook more. I paint the walls of my house. I am lucky that I have decent indoor facilities so I am practising more and will make a comeback in September. I am looking forward to it.
Q. Kerala has done well in dealing with Covid-19. What according to you are the reasons for the state doing well against the pandemic?
A. I think restrictions started pretty early here and when it comes to education, we are little ahead. Even during the floods, we came together and helped each other. Thanks to this unity, whenever we are in trouble, everyone helps each other. Most of the doctors and nurses are from Kerala. A lot of Malyalee nurses are around the globe. Even when it comes to the Indian Army, a lot of Malyalee people are there. These are the reasons why Kerala is doing well.
Q. How are you keeping yourself fit as an athlete?
A. It was very difficult in the beginning because the epidemic is so bad. Everyone was thinking about their families and friends, but there are a lot of good people too who are bringing positivity. I have joined classes with Tim who’s a conditioning coach and has worked with Michael Jordan and other legends. That’s really helping me. I am doing meditation. I am sleeping for 8 hours, and spend 2 hours on meals, etc. The remaining 14 hours I am spending wisely. I am learning new skills. I am batting, fielding and bowling. I have lost 7.5 kg of weight. I will make a comeback in September and I have to be fit. I would love to win Ranji Trophy for Kerala and inspire the youngsters. It’s not all about sports but also ‘Fit India’.
Q. In one of your matches, you waved your bat and danced against Andre Nel in Johannesburg. Tell us what was going in your mind?
A. I copied Dada Sourav Ganguly’s style where he removed and waved his shirt at Lords in England after winning the Natwest Trophy. When this happened, Andre Nel was bowling really fast. I got out on zero in the first innings. I had no clue what I was doing. When he started chatting, he spoke bad about India and made personal remarks. He said that Indians don’t have a heart. I reminded him of Nelson Mandela and told how Mahatma Gandhi — an Indian — inspired Mandela so that South Africans can have what they are having today. I told him to never take “panga” with Indians.
Q. Who has been your favourite captain?
A. Rahul Dravid, for sure. My first cap was given to me by Sachin Tendulkar. In one of my matches in South Africa, Dravid came to me and said that you have to win this match for the country. That motivated me. Rahul bhai used to tell me that if I wished to play the World Cup, this shouldn’t be my routine.
Q. You have been a part of Bigg Boss, Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena, etc. Ever thought of joining Bollywood or Tollywood?
A. I did think of it. Thanks to Pooja Bhatt. I did a film called Cabaret which is still on Zee5. I have done Aksar 2 with actress Zareen Khan. I have also done a Kannada film and working on a Marathi film too. I have done four movies. Till September, I am leaving everything for cricket. I am playing for people who stood for me during my bad time and this is great opportunity for me.
Q. ICC and Cricket Australia want to reopen cricket. What changes do you envisage in cricket?
A. Lots of discussions and guidelines are happening. There will be lots of difficulties when it comes to the crowd. I’d like to see things being done the way English Cricket Board is doing: getting to the ground in a proper English way — well dressed, with hygiene and social distancing. I am sure a lot of changes will happen and cricketers are smart enough to follow those rules.
Q. What do you have to say to fans?
A. I’ll request fans to stay at home and stay safe. Call your friends and show gratitude. Thank people for being a part of your life. Write your goals down. You should have a clear goal. If I can achieve such success coming from a small village in Kerala, anybody can!