Sydney, Jan 7: Indian cricket got its new seminal moment after talismanic Virat Kohli led the country to a maiden series victory on Australian soil, ending a 71-year wait to script a golden chapter in the game's history.
The fourth and final Test match at the SCG petered to a barren draw due to inclement weather but not before providing India with a 2-1 series win and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
It is a rare first Down Under for India since Lala Amarnath's side visited the country back in 1947-48 months after independence to face Sir Don Bradman's 'Invincibles'.
"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 privilege. The boys make the captain look good," an elated skipper Virat Kohli said after the mission was accomplished.
Things turned out to be a bit of anti-climactic in the end as India had a fair chance of adding insult to the injury with a 3-1 victory margin as they got the home team to follow-on in their den for the first time in 30 years after scoring 622 in their only innings.
It was a 'freeze the frame' as the Indian team took a 'Lap of Honour' of the SCG with both Indian and Australian fans cheering them.
"This is history and a terrific moment for Indian cricket," said country's greatest opener Sunil Gavaskar.
Such was the fragility of the Australian batting, a full day's play possibly could have been enough to win a record three Test matches in a single series in Australia had the heavens not opened up. While Australian batting was severely handicapped due to the suspensions of their premier batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner but it can take nothing away from the heady achievement of Kohli's men, who have conquered an unchartered frontier with a lion-hearted display.
If this victory is put into perspective with some of Indian cricket's famous away series wins, it will be right up there both in terms of novelty as well as quality.
Alongside Ajit Wadekar's side's twin triumph in the West Indies and England in 1971, Kapil's Devils or Rahul Dravid's sides' winning the 1986 or 2007 series in England, the members of the current side have now successfully etched their names in record books.
Skipper Kohli, who has always focussed on the endeavour to make his team the best travelling side, has been finally able to walk the talk after the disappointments in South Africa and England where poor batting let the team down during some of the defining sessions.
In Australia however, it was a near flawless team effort from India, especially the bowling unit which has set it up for its batsmen for the better part of last year.
While skipper Kohli hit the best hundred of the series in terms of sheer class on a difficult Perth Stadium track, the unflappable Cheteshwar Pujara (521) and the unconventional Jasprit Bumrah (21 wickets) were the heroes of the memorable 'first'.
With their full focus on how to decode Kohli's genius, an Australian team led by an out of depth Tim Paine realised late that Pujara has struck from the 'blind side' with his near perfect defensive technique and three hundreds.
However, it was their batting that let them down and one piece of statistic will scare the die-hard Aussie fans.
The highest score by an Australian batsman in the just-concluded four-match series is 79 by rookie opener Marcus Harris.
Leave alone a three-figure score, none of the Australian batsman could even cross the 80-run barrier, something that legends like Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne, Mike Hussey, Ian Chappell found difficult to fathom.
Whether it was the awkward angles along created by Bumrah along with some incisive movements, Mohammed Shami getting it to rip on occasions, Ishant Sharma hitting the right length over after over, India never had it so good in terms of consistency in overseas conditions.
Ravichandran Ashwin before he got injured and Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav also played their part to perfection as Indian bowlers put up relentless pressure on the home team batsmen.
While young Prithvi Shaw missed out due to an ankle injury, Mayank Agarwal made most of his chances after an eternal wait for the India cap with two half-centuries.
Rishabh Pant with 350 runs and a sparkling hundred at the SCG with a record number of dismissals in an away series has now established himself as India's No 1 wicketkeeper in the Test format.
For Kohli, this series was more about his leadership choices rather than his insane batting efforts which was comparatively muted by his lofty standards.
His bowling changes were spot on and while team selection in Perth came under a scanner, no one can question the intent of the Indian skipper, who has shown that he only plays to win a Test match.
No other Asian captain leave alone Indian captain has won four away Test matches in South Africa, England and Australia in a single calendar year.
While India now gear up to switch format, Kohli's biggest takeaway will be the confidence before they start their preparations for the ODI World Cup
Nothing much transpired on the field, but here's what all happened on Day 5:
Kohli on Mayank: 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 SA, 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.
Kohli adds further, "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.
Virat Kohli, the winning captain, gets congratulated by Allan Border. Kohli: "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 privilege. The boys make the captain look good. By far, this is my biggest achievement. It's at the top of the pile.
Tim Paine, the losing captain: 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. There's been some positives: some talent in this team, and it was good for our top six to play against potentially the world's best bowling line-up. We have Tests against Sri Lanka and then the Ashes, so this series was important. The message to everyone in domestic cricket is to keep scoring runs. We know there are guys outside of this group who want to come in. No illusions, we need to keep working hard. Cricket's a funny game and it can turn very quickly. I'll go home for a couple of days, and most of the guys will be going to the Big Bash for a bit. And then, we'll have an eye on for the series against Sri Lanka.
Cheteshwar Pujara is Awarded the Man of the Man and Series for 193 here and 521 runs at an average of 74. Pujara: It's a great feeling for all of us. We've been working hard to win a series overseas, and winning in Australia has never been easy. And really pleased with my contribution. For me, the first hundred was special. Scoring a ton at Adelaide and going 1-0 up is what we were aiming for. As a batsman, I was just getting used to the pace and bounce, and apart from that, playing in South Africa and England has helped me improve my technique. For me, it's all about preparation and I was very well prepared. This is the best Indian side I have been part of. And I would also like to congratulate all our bowlers. We've had four bowlers, and it's not easy taking 20 wickets, so credit goes to all our fast bowlers and spinners..remarkable. I'll be playing some first-class cricket back home, and I'll play some county cricket during the IPL. But the next Test series is some 6-7 months away, it'll give me some time to prepare. I would like to play white-ball cricket, but Test cricket is my priority, and it always be so.
Harsha's insights on the result of the series.
Excellent reward for old-fashioned test cricket batting for @cheteshwar1 and a break out year for @Jaspritbumrah93. Thought Virat Kohli was much more relaxed than I have ever seen and that bodes well for his captaincy.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 7, 2019
CHETESHWAR PUJARA gets Man of the Match and Man of the Series Award for his impressive batting efforts.
India has been the better team, has played aggressively and has won this on the back of patient batting and relentless pace bowling. I might have anticipated the first, but the second is a huge development— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 7, 2019
It's official!! 5th Test has been abandoned due to bad weather conditions. India have won the series 2-1. History has been created. Kohli and his boys have conquered a Test series Down Under.
Ponting's prediction goes completely wrong.
Before the start of this series #AusvInd #AusvsInd— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) January 7, 2019
Ricky Ponting had predicted..
“Usman Khawaja will just pip Kohli”
- But Kohli made 282 runs to Usman Khawaja's 198 runs
"Australia will win series 2-1"
- But India won 2-1
Bishan Bedi lauds Team India for their efforts in 2018 in Tests.
Kudos to Team Ind fr recovering lot o lost ground n Sth Afr/Eng-truly remarkable feat-beating Aust fr 1st time n their own backyard-2 guys @cheteshwar1 & @Jaspritbumrah93 personified consistency-all playing X1’s gr8 resolve/determination helped cross the Rubicon..Congrats All!— Bishan Bedi (@BishanBedi) January 7, 2019
Looks like the play will be abandoned.
Such an anti-climax! The series will officially be won by India soon. But it would have been more fun achieving it on the ground.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 7, 2019
Almost 4 and a half hours' of the day's play has washed out.
Lunch has been taken at Sydney as poor weather condition has washed out the first session. Hopefully, we'll see some action after the lunch break as rain would have stopped by then.
The maximum amount of time lost for the minimum amount of rain!
I think we are going to set a new record here. The maximum amount of time lost for the minimum amount of rain!— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 7, 2019
Here's a look at Rishabh Pant's performance in this series: 25, 28, 36, 30, 39, 33 & 159*. Total - 350 in 7 innings + 20 catches + witty chirps from behind the stumps caught on the mic.
Heroes of the match for Team India in Sydney Test! 1 - Cheteshwar Pujara 193 2 - Rishabh Pant - 159* 3 - Ravindra Jadeja - 81, 2/73 from 32 overs 4 - Kuldeep Yadav 5/99.
CA has confirmed that Day 5 is also going to have a delayed start due to rain. Harsha Bhogle tweets the match will begin only after it has stopped raining completely.
Delayed start to day 5. Very thin drizzle but you can't start till it stops and the light gets better than the reading taken on day 3. India need the overs to make it 3-1— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 6, 2019