Galle: It took him six years to make a comeback to the Indian Test team and his spot as an opener is still not guaranteed but Abhinav Mukund would prefer to live in the present and contribute in team's cause rather than thinking about past or future.
With his 81-run knock on Friday, Mukund scored only his second Test half-century after his previous best effort of 62 against the West Indies in Dominica back in 2011.
Mukund has been a part of the Indian team since the Australia series early this year but given Shikhar Dhawan's 190 runs in the first innings and a possible comeback of Murali Vijay or KL Rahul, his place in the team will be under the scanner.
"I have the opportunity to do something in this Test. I don't want to think ahead to the next Test. Being the first choice opener or second choice opener doesn't make a difference. When you get a chance in the middle, I want to capitalise on it. That's what I thought," said Mukund.
"There was a point of time – I am very honest about it – that I was not raring to even put on whites. I wasn't part of any team – I wasn't part of any First Class team. There was a time when I was dropped from my own First Class team. To have this opportunity to be part of the Indian team is such a huge bonus. I take every game as an opportunity, that's all. If I am part of the team, not part of the team, again, I will try to do my best wherever I am," said Mukund.
The Tamil Nadu opener said his teammates have been very supportive since his comeback.
"The support staff and the senior players have made my stay quite comfortable. I have played a lot with Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja and all of these guys at junior level. I think the culture is as such that it is relaxed in the dressing room.
During his knock of 81, Mukund put on 133 runs for the third wicket with skipper Virat Kohli who also overcame his bad patch to score an unbeaten 76.
"We have certain plans, where we try to hold our partnership together at the start and end of each session because when you start and end the session well, it is a big plus for the team. That's something we speak about a lot.
"I thought if two settled batsmen were not out today (Friday), that would have given us the impetus to get a few more in the first hour and then out them back in. Unfortunately I got out. It is not something we can control, but it is something we have in the back of our head that we finish the session well," he said.
His half-century served as a timely knock of course, but Mukund has also eagerly contributed on the field. He ran out Upul Tharanga from silly point and then took a one-handed catch to dismiss Niroshan Dickwella on day two as well.
"I was quite disappointed after the Pune Test because I dropped a sitter off Steven Smith. It was one of those catches that goes past you. I wanted to do well because I wanted to be a specialist somewhere.
"In the Indian team, it is very important that you be a specialist fielder somewhere. I have worked a lot with R Sridhar. He has been a great asset for me. He has made it mandatory that we take a certain number of catches everyday. Also the fitness aspect – it is important that you are fit to stand under the helmet for 70-80 overs. So a lot of credit to Mr. Basu," said the opener.
"I think the catch and the run-out did give me a lot of confidence. I have worked really hard in the off-season. I wanted to improve on my close-in fielding and also my batting. I have put in the hard yards. I have had a decent day but I am disappointed to get out on 81," he added.
Sri Lanka were bowled out for 291 runs in their first innings, handing India a huge lead of 309 runs. India did not enforce the follow on and Mukund said it should work in India's favour.
"There was a little bit of discussion, but I think there was so much time left in the Test match and the wicket is going to deteriorate. It was the management's decision. I didn't play any part in that.
"When the ball gets older, there was assistance for Dilruwan Perera. There was turn towards the end of the day. There are a couple of balls that are skidding on and going.
"There will be a lot more assistance for Ashwin and Jadeja in the second innings than there was yesterday (Thursday) or today (Friday). Probably by lunch or tea tomorrow (Saturday), I think there will be a lot more turn," he signed off.