Rain washed out play on day five of the fourth and final Test between Australia and India at the Sydney Cricket Ground as India took the series 2-1 for their first series triumph in Australia in 72 years of trying, writes SIMON LEWIS.
Having comprehensively outplayed Australia for most of the series, Virat Kohli and his Indian charges were emotional but jubilant to lift the Border-Gavaskar trophy at the SCG. This, despite being denied the opportunity of bowling their hosts out on the final day to extend their victory margin to 3-1, with Indian batting legend and commentator Sunil Gavaskar (after whom ‘half’ of the trophy was named) admitting on TV that ‘I have tears in my eyes’.
‘Just one word to say – “proud” to lead this team and it’s an honour and privilege,’ said Kohli at the trophy presentation. ‘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.’
Kohli gave special mention to India’s top-order hero, Cheteshwar Pujara, who picked up the Player of the Match as well as the Player of the Series award after leading the series runs with 521 (ave 74.42), including three centuries and a half-century. Pujara’s series ran 71, 123, 24, 4, 0, 106 and 193 undoubtedly was the spine of his side’s victory, well backed up by the exciting young Rishabh Pant (350 runs, ave 58.33), who was superb in the middle order, scoring 25, 28, 36, 30, 39, 33 and 159 not out, along with taking 20 catches in the series (11 in the first Test).
‘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,’ added Kohli.
Jasprit Bumrah and Nathan Lyon shared the top bowling honours with 21 wickets apiece, Bumrah finishing top of the list by virtue of having a superior average (17.00) compared to Lyon (30.42), which would be expected considering Lyon was a spinner on the losing side.
‘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,’ said Kohli.
Australia skipper Tim Paine was gracious in defeat, saying that ‘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’ve 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 lineup. 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.’
‘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,’ said Pujara on receiving his two awards. ‘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,’ added Pujara. ‘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.’
Pujara added that his plans are to travel back to India to play first-class cricket, followed by a stint in County Cricket while the IPL is on, but the next Test action he can look forward to is almost seven months away.
‘It’ll give me some time to prepare,’ added Pujara. ‘I would like to play white-ball cricket, but Test cricket is my priority.’
The teams stay in Sydney to practice ahead of the first ODI on Saturday 12 January, the first of three matches, which include matches at Adelaide (15 Jan) and Melbourne (18 Jan).
Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images