Karun Nair - The triple and thereafter

For me, it has always been about getting better as a cricketer. I have tried improving day by day. I am trying to enjoy my game and I am not trying to look at the consequences or the outcomes.

Karun Nair has learnt to live with the uncertainty clouding his international career. Indeed, he has become philosophical about it.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

At 26, Karun Nair has seen the world, literally. The stylish Karnataka batsman grabbed eyeballs while playing an unbeaten knock of 303 against England at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. That was in the winter of 2016.

But even after scaling such heights, Nair has failed to cement his place in the national side. But that hasn’t affected the batsman, who continues to be one of the most consistent performers for his state side in the domestic circuit.

At a time when the national team is touring England for a long series, Nair, too is in the United Kingdom as the skipper of the India ‘A’ team’s four-day squad.

Before flying out to England, Nair spoke at length with Sportstar in Bengaluru — where he was part of India’s squad for the lone Test against Afghanistan last month. Throughout the conversation, Nair made it clear that he wants to play to his strength and deliver in all conditions.

Your unbeaten knock of 303 against England in Chennai in the winter of 2016 still remains one of the talked about moments in Indian cricket. But even after playing such a knock, you have not featured in the Indian side much. What have the last couple of years taught you?

Karun celebrates after his Test triple century against England in Chennai in December 2016. Strangely, even after this feat, Karun has not been able to find a regular place in the Indian Test team.   -  AFP

  These two years have brought me to a full circle and it has shown me that I have to keep my emotions in check and also (need to) know how to handle things. I started enjoying the game more, letting go of the thoughts of what happened or what is going to happen. It is important to stay in the present, so I am enjoying the game. It is just like how you start playing cricket because you love the game. I am just doing that right now.

But isn’t it challenging for an Indian cricketer to remain strong psychologically because someone or the other is always breathing down your neck? How have you managed to keep the morale high despite the turn of events?

For me, it has always been about getting better as a cricketer. I have tried improving day by day. I am trying to enjoy my game and I am not trying to look at the consequences or the outcomes. I don’t have any expectations any more. I am just trying to be better as a player and as a person day in and day out. I am putting in all the hard work and then just letting it go in the middle and enjoying the game.

You just spoke about enjoying the game. Interestingly, you have developed a natural style of play in all the formats. What is the one thing that you keep as a constant for all three formats of the game?

For me, my game remains constant; it is just the mindset that changes. In One-Day and T20 (cricket), you have to take a risk when it comes to a certain situation. You have lesser time to get yourself in and less time to not take a risk. In Test cricket, you can take your time and ride your time. You can control the situation. It is different in different formats, but I keep my game simple. I play all the shots in all formats. I play the same shots in the shorter format as well. It is about when you play them and how the situation is at that moment.

Many believe that most of the young cricketers from Karnataka are quite consistent because the state has been able to establish a khadoos brand of cricket, which is quite similar to that of Mumbai. Being a member of the Karnataka side, do you subscribe to such an idea?

Karnataka skipper Karun with the Vijay Hazare Trophy in February this year. The Karnataka team is a well-knit one with the players, most of whom have been together for some years, retaining the hunger for success.   -  SANDEEP SAXENA

  I think the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) has to be given all the credit. They have always had the best of facilities and everything that’s needed. The KSCA has supported us right through and, for us, being a young team and winning trophies at such an early stage has brought in a hunger in every one. Whoever comes in wants to follow in the footsteps of the seniors. So many of us have played for India ‘A’ and India, so whoever is coming now is coming with the dreams of playing for India. That hunger is there in the players and the facilities are also available. That’s an important thing in Karnataka cricket right now, and we also have talented cricketers. In IPL, every year someone from Karnataka does well. It is a good thing and I am happy that so many of us are getting chances to play for India ‘A’ and India. It is going to do a lot of good for Karnataka cricket.

Does the Karnataka team follow any particular style? What are the special things that you guys do?

The good thing is that we are young and most of us have played age-group cricket together. We know each other well from an early age and when we get into the Ranji Trophy squad, we have only one goal and that is to win. Everyone has aspirations to play the highest form of cricket. That’s what matters the most. Everyone is working towards that. Be it individually or as a team, (the target is to) either win the trophy or to go to the next level. What we always focus on is the fact that the more trophies we win, the more guys get spotted for the next level. That’s the way we think and that has been helping for the last few years.

Despite being consistent, a player is often not considered. As an international cricketer, what keeps you going?

The fact that you want to play for your country gets me going. You want to don the jersey. So, you want to make your nation proud and also make yourself proud — that’s the greatest motivation. For me, I want to get better every day and for that to happen, hard work is the only option. I am working on every single aspect.

Coming back to the England tour. Some good showings there could actually fetch you a berth in India’s Test squad for the England series. What are the areas you have been working on?

Everyone talks about how challenging England is for a batsman. That’s the most exciting part for me. I want to get there as soon as possible and face those challenges. I would challenge myself to do well. As a batsman, if you can do well in England, you can do well anywhere. That’s the whole thought process at the moment. At the end of the day, you have to enjoy the game, be it success or failure. If I enjoy myself, I am confident that I will do well. Let my body and bat do the talking.

Karun says that he plays the same kind of shots in all three formats of the game. However, the element of risk has to be courted more in the limited-over varieties.   -  M. VEDHAN

  You are brimming with confidence, but people who know you from close quarters suggest that you are quite emotional. That, however, is never visible when you take the field. How do you manage to keep your emotions aside?

That’s something that has been there with me throughout my career. I tend to keep my emotions in check and not put it out there. But I have started to change that a bit now. Now, I try to bring out my emotions at the right moment. You have seen in the past seasons, the celebrations have gone more emotional. That way I am trying to get my emotions back on the field. In general, I don’t get flustered by anyone saying anything to me. I don’t even show any emotions when under pressure. I am calm and can take what comes my way.

Does that help you in a way because most of your India teammates love showing their aggression on the field?

You have to keep your emotions in control when you are playing for your country. There are always a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure on you. It is hard to keep things under check. There are times when it comes out in the heat of the moment, but in certain situations, you have to soak in that pressure and worry about what’s in front of you. If you can stay in the present, the emotions will always be in check. That’s one thing you need in international cricket. You stay calm under pressure and execute your skills to the best of your abilities.

You focused a lot on skills and playing to the best of your abilities. At a time when fitness is the keyword in Indian cricket, does playing multiple sports help a cricketer?

I play tennis and table tennis and football. It helps to keep you fit and it is also a change of scene to get your mind off cricket. When you play for India at the international level, it takes so much out of you. You need to play some other sport and that’s why I have also started playing golf. Golf does not help you physically, but it helps you stay calm and relaxed. There are times when you actually need to relax. I have started enjoying it and I am glad that I picked it up.