India's captain Ajinkya Rahane. -- AFP
Sydney: India captain Ajinkya Rahane on Monday said the heroic draw that his side pulled off in the third Test against Australia was as good as a victory and especially commended Hanuma Vihari, who battled the excruciating pain of a hamstring injury to stay at the crease.
Vihari remained unbeaten on 23 off 161 balls and batted out more than 42 overs alongside Ravichandran Ashwin to save the Test match while chasing an improbable 407 for victory.
"...today we all saw that special knock. I think this knock was more special than his hundred (in 2019 in the West Indies) especially the way he batted after getting injured," Rahane said during the virtual post-match press conference.
"To show that kind of motivation, hunger and hang in there for your team, that’s what shows the character of an individual. It’s all about what the team wants and credit to him. There was pressure and the way he batted was special," said Rahane, lauding the young man from Andhra Pradesh.
For Rahane, the credit of the draw goes to all those, who performed in pressure situations responding to the team’s requirements.
"This is as good as winning a Test match. When you come abroad and play a match like this, it was really special as I said. It’s as good as victory.
"Credit to Vihari, Ashwin, (Rishabh) Pant, (Cheteshwar) Pujara, the way they batted. Rohit (Sharma) at the start. Everyone chipped in but credit to those two guys in the end."
Pant, who has copped so much flak in the past few months, came good on Monday with his exhilarating 97-run knock and the skipper couldn’t have been happier for him.
"The way he played the knock was really good and unfortunately he was out on 97. Yes, he can drop catches but as long as he is learning, that is very important. I am really happy for Rishabh for the way he batted today. It was a really special knock."
Pant was promoted to No.5 on the day and Rahane gave him credit for executing the plan to perfection.
"As captain and team management, you can make strategies but it’s upto individual to execute that plan (No.5). Rishabh did that for us.
"The way he counter-attacked was really good to see and about Rishabh’s character, we know that he can actually win the game for us in any situation. We had that belief, he is improving day by day as a cricketer," the skipper seemed impressed.
Rahane said that once both Pant and Pujara were dismissed, the team decided that it will go for a draw considering Vihari had injured his hamstring.
"The way Rishabh and Pujara were going, we needed to take one session at a time. After Rishabh and Pujara got out, unfortunately Vihari had that injury and because of that, he had to play a certain kind of role.
"As I said earlier, this is as good as a victory for us."
The captain did admit that during the final few overs, they were literally counting each delivery in excitement.
"Last five or six overs we were counting down (deliveries). Apart from that, we were all sure about Ashwin’s ability and how good he is as a batsman," he said.
"The message during tea break was one over at a time, let’s not think too far ahead and in the last five or six overs, we were counting each and every delivery."
While he sidestepped queries on Steve Smith trying to allegedly create footmarks with his spikes, he did speak about his disappointment with racist abuses hurled at his teammates on days three and four.
"We have lodged a complaint and I spoke to the match referee and umpires whatever I had to speak, whatever happened is not acceptable at all and shouldn’t happen anywhere in the world and we were upset about it," Rahane stated.