Superstar captain Virat Kohli on Monday (7) called winning a series in Australia his proudest ever moment, capping a 12-month journey for his India team of hard graft, fixing mistakes and comradeship.
Their 2-1 triumph achieved what no other Indian side has managed since they started touring to Australia in 1947-48, with the foundations for success laid not in the first Test at Adelaide, but on their tour of South Africa last year.
It was there, and the subsequent tour of England, that he and coach Ravi Shastri identified the attacking brand of cricket that they wanted to play, all in preparation for Australia.
“We wanted to experiment with combinations and find out what suits the team best and take it forward from there,” said coach Ravi Shastri.
“So we learned a heck of a lot in South Africa, we learned a lot in England. We made mistakes, which we didn’t make in this series. We learned from those mistakes.
India lost 2-1 in Tests to South Africa in January last year, and were then outplayed in England 4-1.
“So the most satisfying part of it (winning in Australia) was it was a team working towards this goal over the last 12 months,” said Shastri.
That journey has led to India boasting one of the most fearsome bowling attacks in the world, with the breakthroughs of speedster Jasprit Bumrah and spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
While India’s batting in Australia was a class above, anchored by Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, it was the consistency of the bowling that made the difference, with no Australian batsmen scoring a century.
“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,” said Kohli.
“Hats off to them, the way they’ve prepared, their fitness levels, and their mindset.”
So important was the win that Kohli, the best batsmen in the world in all three formats, placed it above being part of the Indian team that won the 2011 World Cup.
“It’s obviously a very proud moment. More so because for the last 12 months we understand what we have gone through as a team, we understand the kind of cricket we have been able to play,” he said.
“The fact that the reward has come in the most historic series for Indian cricket is the cherry on top of the cake.”
– ‘Stepping stone’ –
And while accolades will inevitably fall on Kohli, he has consistently stressed through the series that it can never be about one person.
“It was a team effort through and through and that’s what we strive for. We strive to play well as a team,” he said.
“Single innings and single spells don’t win games of Test cricket. We play to make the team win.”
India was already the number one team in the world before the series began, with the win only shoring up their formidable reputation.
Kohli is passionate about Test cricket and said he wanted youngsters to look at what the team had achieved, and they way they have done it, for inspiration to keep the red ball game in focus as limited-overs formats gain ever more traction.
“I see this series as a stepping stone for this team to inspire the next lot of Test cricketers. To be passionate for Test cricket firstly,” he said.
“When Indian cricket respects Test cricket we know the fans are going to come in and watch Test cricket.
“We definitely want to build on this and always promote the message of Test cricket being the most important and the most valued format of the game which it rightfully is.”