India is On Top Down Under as they register a first ever series victory

By Kersi Meher-Homji

Congratulations to Virat Kohli’s valiant men as they registered a dual triumph in the Sydney Test. Although rain and poor light deprived them of a certain victory in Sydney, they won the Test series 2-1 on Monday.

It was a historic moment; the first ever series win over Australia in Australia in 71 years. The pioneering Test series was played between these two countries in 1947-48 when Don Bradman’s invincible had beaten India 4-0 with the Sydney Test of December 1947 drawn also due to rains.

What changes seven decades bring! Now it is Kohli’s near-invincibles who not only won the Test series but the Border Gavaskar Trophy as well.

Kohli won the toss again and batted. With the consistent Cheteshwar Pujara scoring 193 (his third century in the series), opening batsman Mayank Agarwal stroking 77, wicket-keeper Rishbah Pant hitting an aggressive unbeaten 159 and Ravindra Jadeja smashing 81, Kohli declared the innings closed at 7 for 622. It was “marvelloush” batting, as the immortal Richie Benaud would have said.

Marcus Harris (79 runs) gave Australia a solid start but the rest floundered to the Indian attack and the home team could total 300. Being 322 runs behind they were forced to follow-on. The outstanding bowler was 24 year-old left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav. In only his sixth Test and first against Australia he captured 5 for 99.

Australia was saved another humiliating defeat as over eight hours were lost on days four and five due to poor visibility.

Pujara was adjudged both Man of the Match and Man of the Series.

All the five centuries in this series were scored by Indians (three by the colossus Pujara and one each by Pant and Kohli). The highest score by an Australian was 79 by Harris.

The top three batsmen in the four Test series were Pujara, 521 runs at 74.92 (highest score 193), Pant 350 at 58.33 (HS 159 not out) and Kohli 282 at 40.28 (HS 123).

The top two bowlers were India’s fast bowler Jaspreet Bumrah, 21wickets at 17.00 (best 6 for 33) and Australia’s off-spinner Nathan Lyon, 21 wickets at 30.42 (best 6 for 122).

There were victory celebrations by the Indian players including the coach Ravi Shastri as the Test ended.

Kohli was congratulated by Allan Border before having a chat. Kohli said: “Firstly, I want to say I’ve never been more proud of being part of a team than this one right here. The culture we’ve built… our transition began right here, where I took over as captain and I can’t believe that after four years we’ve won here. Just one word to say, ”˜proud’, to lead this team and it’s an honour and a privilege.

“The boys make the captain look good. By far, this is my biggest achievement. It’s at the top of the pile. When we won the 2011 World Cup, I was the youngest member of the side. Saw everyone emotional there, but I didn’t feel it. Here, after coming three times, this win means something else. The series win will give us a different identity, and what we’ve been able to achieve… something to be proud of.

“We spoke about our batting as a team, wanted to do the basics. The old, hard grind. Special mention to Pujara, he’s been outstanding in the series, especially after his last time out in Australia. He’s one guy willing to accept things, he works on his game, he’s the nicest man around, and we feel happy for him.

“Special mention to Mayank Agarwal too, he stood up as a champion on Boxing Day. Speaks highly of his mindset but as a batting group we all contributed. It’s something that augurs well with the team. The way the bowlers have dictated and dominated, not here but also in England and South Africa, it’s something I haven’t seen before. Hats off to them, the way they’ve prepared, their fitness levels, and their mindset. They discuss how to take wickets, and then they dictate their plans to me. It’s a revelation in Indian cricket, and something for the bowlers at home to learn.

“These guys will be looked up to for a long, long time and they deserve to break the record of the great West Indian fast bowlers. This is just a stepping stone for us. The average age is quite low but most importantly we had the belief: we had that in South Africa and in England, and when you’re working in the right direction then God knows you’re honest. We want to do the best for Indian cricket, and this is outstanding, but it’s just a stepping stone.

“Australia are always going to be competitive. Every team goes through a transition and their dominance kept world cricket exciting for so many years. I’m sure they’ll regroup as a side and play some exciting cricket in the future. We all deserve to enjoy. The celebrations, I assure you, will run long. The boys are physically and mentally drained and we have no more alarm clocks in the morning.

“And I want to mention about the crowd as well. They’ve been outstanding. They never let us feel we’re playing away from home. And they deserve this feeling as much as we do.”

Tim Paine, the losing captain, said: “Have to tip our hat to India, we know how tough it is to win in India so congrats to Virat and Ravi because it’s a huge achievement. Disappointed, definitely over the last two Tests. We had our chances in Adelaide, in Perth I thought we played some good cricket but in Melbourne and Sydney, we’ve been outplayed.”

To many, our one major disappointment was that the great Sunil Gavaskar was not present to give away the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to Kohli and his victorious team mates along with Border. It seems thatGavaskar felt insulted that Cricket Australia (CA) did not invite him for the presentation. CA says that an invitation was sent to him.

The truth will come out one day. Meanwhile heart-felt congratulations to the triumphant Indian team.

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