Oct 02, 2008 at 01:20pm IST

I don't think captaincy is a burden at all: Kumble

Indian Test captain Anil Kumble is a veteran of quite a few battles against Australia. As he prepares for what could be his last go at the world's best team, he is confident. Kumble spoke exclusively to CNN-IBN.

Indian Test captain Anil Kumble is a veteran of quite a few battles against Australia. As he prepares for what could be his last go at the world's best team, he is confident. Kumble spoke exclusively to CNN-IBN.

CNN-IBN: You completed one year as a captain. how satisfying has your journey been?

Anil Kumble: Personally in this one year a lot of events have happened both on and off the field. In fact a lot of things happened off the field in Australia.

In terms of results it is a mixed bag. I started off very well against Pakistan. We had a series victory against Pakistan. Then Australia was a tough tour and I thought the result could have been better. But overall, we played very good cricket there after losing the first Test match pretty badly.

After that I thought we played exceptionally well to comeback in that series, Perth victory was very sweet and then South Africa again we didn’t start well but then we came back in the last Test match in Kanpur.

As a team we bounced back really well to level the series and Sri Lanka was not really great. We lost the first match badly and then we came back but we couldn’t hold together in the third Test. We didn’t bat well throughout the series.

CNN-IBN: Were you happy with the way this team has progressed? Are you happy with the group where you have reached in this one year as the leader of the group?

Anil Kumble: No, we could have certainly done better in terms of the results we could have at least have had a series win in Sri Lanka, which would have been great. That would have been really good one year. But as a team, the bowling unit has shaped up really well.

Ishant Sharma, in particular has grown in stature since Australia, in fact since he came back in the Bangalore Test match and then Australia. Against South Africa he just played one match. In Sri Lanka, he bowled really well. Zaheer Khan’s comeback has been really well, Harbhajan has bowled well. Sehwag has done exceptionally well as an opening batsman.


CNN-IBN: Your name if I ask you as a bowler is always considered one who takes wickets. In that regard, don’t you think you won’t be too impressed with your performance in this last one year? Is it because of captaincy or is it the sheer bad luck that you were not getting wickets?

Anil Kumble: At times you bowl well and yet you don’t get wickets. But I don’t think captaincy is a burden at all. I have done my jobs and at some stage I had to block runs. Against South Africa I thought I was a bit unlucky, even against Sri Lanka I was a bit unlucky as a bowler. But my job was to contain the runs. Sometimes I get wickets, sometimes the other bowler gets wickets.

So, as long as we keep winning matches it doesn’t matter who get the wickets whether it is me or the other bowlers. But obviously, at the end of the day, you would want to see a lot of wickets against your name but after all it is a team sport and my job is to ensure that everybody contributes.

I would have loved to have a couple of more wickets and had I managed some more in Sri Lanka, the series might have been different. But having said that, looking back I have had a decent record.

CNN-IBN: Do you think the defeat in the Sri Lanka series has unnecessarily put pressure on Indian middle-order, who has done tremendously well. It was probably the one time when everyone collectively failed. But do you think the criticism is more because the players are in their 30s and not 20s?

Anil Kumble: In India, it really doesn’t matter whether you are 31 or 32. As soon as you cross 30 I think the people start talking. It is not fair to judge someone by just one performance or just one series, especially when someone has performed for 10 years.

I understand when he is a new comer, though that is also unfair. You cannot judge a player by just one series. But when you have played for 10-15 years and contributed to all the victories that India have had in the last 15 years. It is not fair to pass judgement.

CNN-IBN: How confident are you about them?

Anil Kumble: I am very confident.


CNN-IBN: Are they feeling any pressure?

Anil Kumble: I don’t think so. I think everyone need to perform as it is a team game. You can’t take your place for granted and I can assure you that none of the players have taken their place for granted. The amount of work that each one of us has put in, the people may call us the seniors but the amount of hard work we put in is same as anyone else.

It is international cricket, you have a role to do and also a possible pride. Everybody is aware of that and we are up for it against Australia. And I am confident that our batters will get the runs and whenever they have got the runs, our bowlers have done a good job.

CNN-IBN: So do you think that batting is going to be the key?

Anil Kumble: When you play in India, it is important to get runs and whenever the batsmen have put runs on the board, it is a lot easier for the bowlers, especially the spinners to go and dominate. And pressure certainly falls on the opposition whenever that happens.

CNN-IBN: The 2004 series India lost to Australia. Do, you think there are some lessons to learn from there that is when they won the series by exploiting the conditions here. So you think they would try and do the same this time around as well? But do have to say about their inexperienced side this time?

Anil Kumble: Probably they would adopt the same strategy and our batsmen know about that. And we need to get runs. But if you look back at the Australian bowling attack in 2004, it had a lot of experience and quality. Even this attack has quality but they lack the experience the 2004 attack had.

So in that sense, to sustain that kind of pressure I think our batsmen will able to get the runs. I am confident about that and also if you look back at the 2004 series in Chennai on the last day of the match, we needed 200 runs with 10 wickets in hands and I certainly backed our chances to get those runs. And in that very match in Chennai, Gillespie and Martin had a partnership lower down the order and that cost us the match.

That is something we would certainly be aware of to ensure that we got give too many runs to the lower order and try and put pressure on their batsmen by building a good score.

CNN-IBN: A lot of people are saying that this is probably going to be the weakest Australian sides coming to India, especially if you look at their bowling attack, a spin attack that hasn’t played a Test match?

Anil Kumble: If you look at their spin attack - yes. But if you look at their bowling attack in general, it is the same bowling attack who played earlier in the year in Australia. It is the same bowlers who are coming to India. Conditions are different to certain extend so the home advantage is with us. If our batsmen bat the same way they did in Australia post the first Test, we have a very good chance of winning the series.


CNN-IBN: Do you think the home teams nowadays don’t get the wickets which they think they should get so that there is this slight fair advantage to the home side?

Anil Kumble: No, I think the pitches have changed over the years. If you look at international cricket all over the world the wickets seem to be very similar in the way they behave.

For some reasons they have changed the soil, especially in India. They have changed the soil surface. Even in Bangalore they have changed it to clay from the red soil that they used to have. I am not sure what the reason is. But the so called home advantage if it is there then it would be good as in India the spin starts to take place soon enough as the game progresses and if that is there it is certainly be good.

CNN-IBN: Have you seen the kind of facilities the Australian are getting that had also prompted a huge debate whether they should get to know all kinds of pitches that we have. As a rival captain are you worried with the kind of preparation they are getting?

Anil Kumble: I am only worried about our preparation and our focus is only on our preparation and so far our preparations have been really good. The lead up to the Test match has been good. Playing the Irani Trophy match and then a week long camp in Bangalore before the Tests.

So, I am pretty happy with our preparation and not really looking at how the Australians are preparing and what they are doing. As long as we have prepared well and we are confident.

CNN-IBN: Ricky Ponting has a very average record against India, especially in India. Do you think that is something the Indians can exploit and put some pressure?

Anil Kumble: We will certainly look at that aspect and hoping that his form in India continues for the next four matches at least. It will be good as he is a very important player for Australia and as long as we keep him under check here in our conditions, I would be happy.

He is a key player and we will certainly look to put pressure on all the batters - try and keep them quiet and ensure we get them out cheaply. That will be the aim. But how far we will succeed only depends on how well we will bowl as a unit. And I am pretty confident the way our bowlers are shaping up and we are prepared well. So, in that sense, we have got all the ammunition to get 20 wickets.


CNN-IBN: You talked about the off the field activities in Australia. Do you think it will come back again and this series will also be bitterly fought or you think the players have moved on from there?

Anil Kumble: I think the cricket is going to be tough on the field and we expect the same from Australia as well. So, I don’t see that changing but I hope both the teams will play the matches in the right spirit. I hope people will remember this series for the cricket that both the teams will play.

There were a few issues that happened in Australia are gone and we are beyond that now and the focus will be on cricket. There will be a lot of following because of what had happened in Australia and also India-Australia series always throws up some fantastic Test matches, so everyone one would be looking forward to it and so will be the teams. We are all keen to go out there and do out best.

CNN-IBN: Do you also believe that it are bigger than the Ashes or bigger than Indo-Pak series?

Anil Kumble: I think the Indo-Pak series certainly has its charm but having said that, India-Australia series over the last three series that we have played against each other, I think India is the only country, who really competed against Australia other than the one-off Ashes that England won in England.

Consistently we have been able to compete and also win against Australia. So, in that sense India-Australia gets a lot more attention. And I think all the cricket-playing nations would sit and watch this series. So, it is a big series for all of us.

CNN-IBN: What will be the key to win this series?

Anil Kumble: I think the first Test match is going to be important. The batting will have to click and I am confident about that. If we put the runs on board, we have got the bowling to pick up 20 wickets. Key will be to keep the intensity right throughout the Test match.

Australia will keep fighting and we will also do the same. And if we fight till the last ball is bowled and never give up, I think we have a great chance. And this is the best possible chance India have to beat Australia in India.

CNN-IBN: Do you think it will be a great thing to happen to your career at this stage to bring back the Gavaskar-Border Trophy?

Anil Kumble: It will be a good series to play in and this India-Australia series is always gets a lot of people’s attention and it will be nice to start of with a victory. And then win the series, which we haven’t done in the last seven years against Australia. So, it will be a great series for all of us to ensure that we get a victory here.