New Delhi: He is perceived to be a fearless batsman but the flamboyant Virender Sehwag says he feels "nervous" and has butterflies in his tummy whenever he faces the first ball but never shows it to the bowler.
"Every time when I go to the crease and prepare to face the first ball, I'm nervous and there are butterflies in my tummy. I never show it because if the bowler senses it, he'll come hard at me and try to put me under pressure," Sehwag said.
"I have to send across a message to the bowler - I'm here to face you with a lot of aggression and confidence, whether I play a defensive shot or an attacking one," he said.
Sehwag reckoned that it was his mental strength which has helped him to dominate the bowlers in international cricket. "I think it's the mental strength. I have the self confidence and the belief that I can play well against any team and score against any bowling attack," he told BCCI's official website Tuesday.
"International cricket is all about mental toughness. If you're strong in your mind and can control your mind, you can perform against anybody. That's my biggest strength," he said.
The 33-year-old Sehwag said that of late he has changed his approach to batting slightly and was willing to hang in for some time before playing his strokes. "Now I'm a little more careful about how the wicket is behaving, whether the ball is swinging or not and how the bowling attack is. I give a little more time to myself to understand the conditions and situation well and then plan my innings accordingly.
"Having said that, if somebody bowls a half-volley on a green top, I'll still go after it and I'll still play my square cuts if the ball is pitched short outside the off-stump.
"But if a bowler is bowling in good areas, I have to give respect to the new ball rather than the bowler. If I do that and play 10-12 overs with caution, the ball gets old by the time and the bowlers start to get a bit tired. Then, I can take them on," Sehwag said.
Asked what was the difference between opening the batting with Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir, he said he was under less pressure when Tendulkar was his partner.
"When I'm batting with Tendulkar, there's very less pressure on me because the opponents are all concentrating on getting him out. With Gautam, the bowlers are worried about getting me out rather than him. Hence I have to be careful.
"Also, Gautam and I are very good friends, and the communication between us is very good."
Sehwag said it was important to be happy and give your best and not worry too much about the results.
"The important thing is to be happy, whether you score a zero or a 300. You just go out there and give your best; sometimes you click, sometimes you don't. One should always be happy, irrespective of what you achieve in a match or in life," he explained.
Asked whether there was a better hitter of the cricket ball than him, he said, "There are a lot of players who're better [hitters] than me. In my team, there's Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh - they hit the ball harder than I do.
"In other teams, there's David Warner, Shane Watson, Kevin Pietersen. In every team there are a couple of such batsmen who can hit long sixes," he said.
Does he mull over his shot and watch replays when he gets out to a rash shot ? "Most of the times [when] I throw my wicket away, be it a limited-overs game or a Test match, I go over the top trying to hit a four or a six, mistime it and get out. That's my game. As long as my team and the coach are happy with how I play, I don't have any problems with getting out like that," he said.
On what's the one thing that he would want to take from Tendulkar's batting, he said, "The straight drive. I don't think anyone can play that shot better than he does."