It took 71 years for the Indian team to reach there. It wasn't the peak of Mount Everest or landing on Mars, but a Test series win against Australia in Australia. The team had toured the country 11 times in the past and managed to draw on three occasions (1-1 in 1980/81, 0-0 in 1985/86,1-1 in 2003-04) while losing in the other eight.
There were a couple of sweet victories in the past, but that didn’t win them a series. Come 2018 and they were to tour South Africa, England, and Australia in the same year. Unlike previous tours, the fast bowling unit was at their imperious best picking up 20 wickets in most of the matches they played.
In South Africa and England, the batsmen failed to capitalize on the inroads made by the bowlers and lost some close games. It was a matter of a couple of partnerships and the scorecard would have looked completely different. Then came the Australian tour and it was time for the batsmen to step up their game and when they did, won the series 2-1.
It was a collective team effort - be it good starts by Mayank Agarwal or classic Test batting by Cheteshwar Pujara or the way Rishabh Pant took on the Aussie pace attack down the order. The fast bowlers were on top of their game and stuck to the plan. They hit the right length and areas picking up important wickets at key moments in the match.
At the same time, the spinners had their role of holding one side and bowling tight spells which created a lot of pressure. Overall it was a series that erased a lot of records and wrote new ones. Let us look at the five unnoticed records from the series:
#1 Most wins in SENA countries by Kohli as Indian captain
Most Test wins for Indian captains in SENA countries:— Umang Pabari (@UPStatsman) December 30, 2018
4 - Virat Kohli*
3 - MS Dhoni
3 - MAK Pataudi #AUSvIND
2018 was a year that unleashed Virat Kohli’s captaincy skills. He was aggressive in his approach and led the team from the front. Even though the final scorecard in South Africa and England wasn’t in India's favour, the players had the belief that they could go out and win matches for the country.
He brought that belief in the team and developed a conducive atmosphere that helped the team to play in good spirit. As a result, they won Tests in South Africa and England along with two wins in Aust1ralia which sealed the series for the team.
It was the way he used his bowlers and showed belief in them. He showed someone like Jasprit Bumrah that he wasn’t limited to ODIs and T20Is but was equally talented to do well in the longer format as well.
He took the pressure off his batsman scoring some important runs throughout the series. Due to all these efforts, Kohli became the first Indian captain to have four victories in the SENA countries, breaking the previous record of 3 wins, which was jointly held by MS Dhoni and MK Pataudi.
#2 Kuldeep Yadav becomes the first Indian bowler to take fifers outside Asia in all formats:
Wrist spinners have proven to be a threat and dominated the game across formats in recent years. India were lucky enough to find a young chinaman bowler who was impressive in his U-19 days as well as in the IPL. He was then selected to the limited overs where he proved his worth. He was waiting to get into the Test squad but was unlucky on a couple of occasions.
He then debuted against Australia at home and took a 4-wicket haul. Then came the overseas tour where he had a forgettable game versus England at Lord's which taught him the difference between an ODI and a five-day game. However, he re-grouped impressively and got his first fifer against West Indies at Rajkot which earned him a place in the squad against the Aussies.
He had to wait until the Sydney Test to get an opportunity and he made the most of this by becoming the first Indian bowler to bag five-wicket haul in every format outside Asia. He also became the first chinaman bowler to take 5-wicket haul in Tests in Australia in 64 years. His figures stood at 31.5-6-99-5(read as overs-maidens-runs-wickets).
Indians to take five-wicket hauls outside India in all three formats:
#3 Bumrah was the leading wicket-taker in India’s four overseas Test wins in 2018:
It was a year ago when he debuted against South Africa and finished the series with 14 wickets. But the limelight was on his efforts in the third Test where he got his first five-wicket haul and finished the match with the figures of 7 for 111 at an average of 15.85 which helped India secure a win at Johannesburg.
Later in the year, he missed the first two Tests and played the third Test against England in Nottingham where he had a dream spell of 5 for 85 in the second innings that handed a 203-run defeat to the hosts.
Then came the Australia tour where he was termed as the ‘X-factor’ for the team’s success. In four Test matches, he grabbed 21 wickets at a jaw-dropping average of 17. In the first Test at Adelaide, it was important for the bowlers to deliver and Bumrah was up to the task, taking six wickets in the match that enabled India to win the match by 31 runs.
Then came the ‘Boxing Day’ Test in which he was on fire. The moment of the match was that slower ball that deceived Shaun Marsh at the brink of lunch on Day 3. He went on to take nine wickets in the match at an average of 9.55 in the match, becoming the first Indian pacer to do so in Australia.
#4 Rishabh Pant's phenomenal work with the gloves and bat:
This young lad from Delhi can return back to India with a lot of satisfaction, courtesy his great outing in the recently concluded series against Australia. He made his first appearance against England in Nottingham where he opened his account with a six. He was impressive with the gloves as well, taking 15 catches in three Tests.
He scored his maiden hundred at the Oval when India were chasing an unlikely 464 runs which included a partnership of 204 runs with KL Rahul.
He was then inducted into the squad as the main wicket-keeper ahead of the Australian series. At the end of the tour, he was the second highest run-getter in the series with 350 runs in 7 innings at an average of 58.33.
His knock of 159* in Sydney became the highest score by an Indian wicketkeeper on foreign soil. With the gloves, he was phenomenal, taking 20 catches in the series, becoming the first Indian wicketkeeper to do so. This included eleven catches he held on to in the Adelaide Test, equaling the world record for most catches in a match.
#5 Pujara became the only Asian cricketer to score two tons in a winning cause against the Aussies:
This was a déjà vu of the 2003-04 series when the batting legend Rahul Dravid dominated the Aussies, scoring 619 runs in four Tests. This time it Cheteshwar Pujara's turn. Pujara, who was often criticized for his poor run in overseas conditions, gave a stern answer to his critics.
He emulated his idol, scoring 521 runs, with three hundreds and a fifty - at an average of 74.42. In the first match at Adelaide, the visitors found themselves in a sticky situation with the first three wickets falling for just 19 runs when Cheteshwar Pujara came to the party. Building partnerships with the lower order and scoring 123 himself, he pushed the 1st innings total to 250.
In the ‘Boxing Day’ Test at Melbourne, he rattled the Aussie attack, scoring 106 off 319 balls in 481 minutes on a tricky pitch. India eventually won the game by a comfortable margin of 137 runs, taking a 2-1 lead in the series. He also scored 193 at the SCG where he was at the crease for more than nine hours.
Overall, Pujara spent more than 31 hours in the middle which is a new record. He also became the second Indian to face the most number of deliveries (1258 balls) in a series. Overall, the key to India’s series win was the batting performance of Pujara. This also got him the ‘Man of the Series’ award.