Your thoughts on India’s performance in Australia.
I think our performance has been really good. The bowlers have been effective and the batters have also stepped up. I would especially like to point out Cheteshwar Pujara—I think he has been magnificent. He is known to tire bowlers out, to construct an innings.
The bowling, I feel, has been terrific. If you look at all three Tests, the fast bowlers have really bowled their hearts out. Also, to be fair, Australia without [David] Warner and [Steve] Smith has been a really average team. This batting lineup does not come anywhere close to earlier Australian teams, known to challenge the opposition with attacking stroke-play and depth in batting. Compared with that, I think they are vulnerable without Smith and Warner. There is that vacuum. If you look at the last six or seven Tests, they have lost quite a few. There is obviously pressure on them.
In the second Test in Perth, I thought Virat [Kohli] played very well and Ajinkya [Rahane] played a crucial innings. In the third Test, I would go back to Pujara, who has been rock solid.
Overall, if you take [Jasprit] Bumrah, [Mohammed] Shami, Ishant [Sharma], [Ravindra] Jadeja and [Ravichandran] Ashwin, all of them have chipped in at some point or the other. It has been a complete performance, which has come at the right time.
Is this the best Indian pace bowling unit to have toured Australia?
I would agree with that. I would also say that the same bowling unit has played for a year. We started playing against South Africa and then England. Then we played against two weaker teams—the West Indies and Australia. The West Indies team was extremely vulnerable; [our bowlers] got them out almost twice in a day! And Australia does not have a great batting lineup at this stage. I am not taking anything away from our bowlers, [but] if Australia’s batting lineup [was at] full strength, I am sure even our bowlers would have enjoyed the challenge.
What were your initial thoughts when you saw Jasprit Bumrah?
My foremost thought was that he had a very awkward action, but he managed to hit the bat hard. So, the pace and bounce he generated off the pitch were really good.
And then my opinion changed over time. He is a good listener. To be a good cricketer, you have to also be a good listener. He is a fast learner and a practical person. Whatever conversations I have had with him, he [seemed like a] practical, honest and methodical guy who assesses his game the way it is meant to be, and improves on the areas he can.
Bumrah is difficult to pick, is deceptive and has many variations. How should a batsman play him?
There is no such formula on how to tackle anyone. You go there, see how the surface is—bouncy, seaming, keeping low, swinging, reverse-swinging. There are a number of factors; whether you want to play beside the line or behind the line. There are a number of elements that come together and you plan your innings accordingly.
But I can say that he is a complete bowler. He has got an inswinger, outswinger, yorker [and a] sharp short-pitched ball. He also bowls reverse swing and, on top of that, has a brilliant slower ball. I think ammunition wise, he has got plenty and that can be dangerous. When you have all these variations, but with a traditional action, things can be managed. But [an] action that is slightly out of the box has become his strength. The batsmen will always take a fraction longer to think [about] what he will deliver.
You have batted against Lasith Malinga and Shane Bond, bowlers with different actions. Where would you place Bumrah among them?
Other bowlers have been different [compared with] Bumrah. I do not think anyone in international cricket has or has had this type of action. Just like Malinga; no one bowls like him or Paul Adams. Also, Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel were different.
How do you think Bumrah should be managed, given his awkward bowling action and workload?
The ideal scenario is [to use him carefully], but if you want to win, you do not calculate these things. They go out of the window. As a captain, you want to just press the accelerator, go as hard as possible for the win. That is exactly what the Indian team must be thinking. Bumrah really does not care; he wants to win. When you win a game for your team, that is the greatest feeling in the world. You conserve and plan, but when there is an opportunity to go for the kill, you go flat out.
The Melbourne win came after 37 years. Where would you rank it?
I would not go by statistics. A victory anywhere is satisfying, [and] I am glad Melbourne joins that list. Once you wear India colours, a win is satisfying in any part of the world. I would say the Adelaide victory is as important as the Melbourne one.
Is this Indian pace attack the most balanced in recent times?
We have had [such] bowlers in the past, too. Please go back and see the batting lineups [Javagal] Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Ajit Agarkar and Anil Kumble bowled to. When Zaheer [Khan], Ashish [Nehra] and Harbhajan [Singh] played all across the world, the batting lineups were different. We should not forget their contributions.
How good is the current bowling attack compared with those of England or New Zealand?
I would say [it is] a complete bowling attack, which can be competitive in any part of the world. [It is] a good and balanced bowling attack. However, I would rather not compare.