India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Tuesday said he never expected to don the national colours and pointed out that the 'small-town' tag has made him a tougher player.
"I never thought I will play for India. I am never worried if I am not selected for a particular game or series but my focus will be on contributing for the next match," Dhoni said at a panel discussion moderated by commentator Harsha Bhogle.
To a question about his early years in Ranchi, Dhoni said while many did not attach much importance to such small towns, they had a fair bit of senior players to look upto and a decent league cricket.
"Comparatively, Ranchi has (more) senior players. Of course it's a bit tough to come from a small city but that makes you tougher with the challenges it poses," he said at the discussion, held as part of a promotional event by health drink brand Boost.
Dhoni however, expressed, joy over the increased media coverage to sports in such small cities.
Asked how he managed to find time between the game and other engagements, including his endorsement commitments, he said the game was the central part to all the activity.
"It is very easy. You follow cricket. If it is not there, nothing else is there. Shoots (for advertisements) help take off the time from cricket as you roam about freely, interacting with important people," he said.
Stating that he is not one to hit the gym hard, Dhoni said he relaxes once off the field and eats "whatever he wants".
"I dont compromise on food," he added. Opener Virendar Sehwag, one of the panelists along with former captain Anil Kumble and former coach John Wright, recalled his long journeys in his early days to practice and said Najafgarh, from where he hails, then used to be known for its gangsters.
Struggling to come back to the Indian one-day team, the world-record holder for the fastest ODI double-century said it is important to "switch on and off" during failures and said he coped by relaxing with family and listening to music.
"My batting is not technically correct, but I am mentally strong," he added.
Kumble talked about the importance of both talent and hard work for an aspiring cricketer to make it big at the highest level.