The Indian cricket team made history in winning a first-ever Test series in Australia since these began in 1947-48. Team India may sometimes have come close to a triumph, as in 1977-78 and 1985-86, but a variety of factors like the weather, Aussie fortitude and home umpiring may have beaten its efforts. Virat Kohli’s squad showed three qualities most needed to win in Australia — a hard attitude, patience to play long Test innings and a vigorous pace attack to make the best use of true sporting pitches. After snatching a narrow win in Adelaide to lead, India were upstaged in Perth where conditions most suit Australia. India showed character in turning the tide again with a memorable win in Melbourne and then dominated the rain-ruined Sydney Test as befits the world’s top-rated Test side, batting Australia right out of the match and forcing it to follow on.
The skipper had a soulmate in Cheteswar Pujara, who compensated for failures among openers, and Team India discovered the aggressive capabilities of young wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant, besides useful contributions from vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and others. Where the team stood out was in the relentless quality of pace bowling combination of three to four seamers, spearheaded by Jasprit Bumrah with his unusual high delivery arm action. This collection of a potent, efficient and performing pace squad was a phenomenon unknown to Indian cricket, which had seen only a few great pacers of such sustained hostility.
In using them strategically, Kohli displayed high leadership qualities. The touring thinktank may have made selection errors for the Perth Test, but seemed to have learnt lessons, changing openers and keeping a spinner or two in the playing XI.
The captain may have overdone his part a bit as he tried to pay back the Australians by aggravating opponents in the field. But perhaps this was the attitudinal paradigm shift Indians needed to conquer the final frontier. South Africa remain as another country where Team India hasn’t won a Test series, over the last 28 years since ties began in 1991-92. In the absence of the team’s leaders Steve Smith and David Warner, the hosts may have been at their lowest ebb, but no Australian team is to be taken for granted, certainly not in their lair. It is in tackling issues as they cropped up in uncharted territory that Kohli’s men excelled. Their competitive instincts may have been finely honed over the years but their performances in England and Australia have been below par. In sorting out their act and coming through the test by fire was the highlight of the series triumph. The confidence boost should stand Team India in good stead in its quest of the World Cup in the coming summer in England.