Karun Nair was running late when he arrived at the Bengaluru airport on Thursday morning to head to Visakhapatnam for Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy quarter-final against Tamil Nadu. But when you’ve just become only the second Indian to score a triple hundred, the chances of going unnoticed are few. With attention and adoration from security personnel and airline staff, Karun boarded his flight well in time and managed to oblige a few selfie hunters as well. For the shy and unassuming 25-year-old, both the attention and his monumental innings are yet to sink in. In an exclusive interview with TOI, the middle-order batsman opened up about his knock, his influences in life and the road ahead.
Has the triple hundred sunk in?
I don’t think it has sunk in yet. It’s been just a few days and I haven’t had enough time to think about what happened and I’m playing a match (Ranji) now. Over the next few days I will probably have time to think about it.
How did you pace that innings?
The most important thing was to get past the 20s and 30s. For me, it has always been about getting my first century out of the way. That’s probably the pressure point for me. Once I’ve got the first 100, I’ve gone on to get bigger scores. Obviously, the nerves were there to get past the first milestone. Once I got past that, I was my usual self – playing freely without any pressure. My only aim at that time was to get past England’s total and try to build partnerships. Once I started getting into the flow, runs started coming much easily. We were able to build crucial partnerships and that’s how I was able to pace my innings. Once I got past 200, there were a minimum set of overs given to us because they wanted to give England a bat that evening. Even before we reached those overs, I was at the 280-mark. They were kind enough to allow me to take my time to get to 300. I’m thankful to Virat and the team management for showing that patience.
After a poor run in the first two Tests, did you do anything different?
Preparation was the same. When you don’t get runs in the first two games, you start thinking and doubting yourself. Luckily for me, I was calm because I knew I was playing well. I have to admit that at the beginning of my innings in Chennai, I felt a bit of pressure. But pressure is something I thrive under. Such situations help because I can take the pressure off myself and focus on bailing the team out. I went in after Virat was dismissed, so I was thinking more about the team cause.
You are a man of few emotions on the field. How do you cope when you can’t convert starts into good knocks?
I don’t show emotion but it is all building up inside. I think, for me, the best way to let out those emotions is to spend time in the middle and try to use those emotions to motivate myself further. When I get runs, it pushes me to reach higher and not give up easily. I do keep my emotions to myself. For example, when I get a hundred, I think about all the times I wasn’t getting runs, so that pushes me to make an innings count.
Over the past year, you seemed to have worked hard on your fitness…
It is still a process. I haven’t reached where I can. I can get better and fitter. I’m a bit of foodie, so it was tough for me to give up on things I loved eating. Also, I got a long break after our early exit from Ranji Trophy last season. In those two-three months I worked a lot on my fitness and that’s what helped me through the season. I even removed fruits from my diet for a month before the IPL because it contained sugar. I was on proteins, protein shakes and vegetables for a couple of months. I also had the odd cheat days, which are very important.
Did you work on anything particular during the off season?
I didn’t do anything. After the Ranji Trophy, Rahul Dravid sir spoke to me and said, “It has been a tough season, but you have to give yourself a break for a while. Your body needs that so lock your kit away and don’t even look at it for a month.” I blindly listened to that and I played no cricket for a month. I continued with the fitness routines and went into Irani Trophy without practice. A few days before the match I knocked a few balls but practised only a day before.
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Laraib Kashif is a freelance writer and cricket lover. He is interested in writing and playing Fantasy Cricket!