Virat Kohli on Monday became the first captain to lead India to a Test series win in Australia. India and Australia played out a draw in the fourth Test after continuous rainfall on the last two days of the match disrupted proceedings and washed away Australia’s chances of equalising the series. With the anti-climax, India won the series 2-1.
In 11 previous attempts, India had drawn a series in the longest format only twice, while losing nine. Bishan Singh Bedi had led India to a series draw in 1977-78 tour, after which Sourav Ganguly had done the same in the 2003-04 tour.
Kohli became the first Indian captain to record two overseas series wins with victories in three matches. The The 33-year-old had previously led India to a historic whitewash in a Test series against Sri Lanka in 2017. Kohli also became the first Indian skipper to register three Test match wins in a series outside the Asian subcontinent in 50 years. It was Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi who had done the same with a 3-1 series win against New Zealand in 1967-68.
With the series win, Kohli also surpassed Ganguly as the most successful Indian captain in overseas conditions in Tests format with 12 wins to his name. He also joined an elite list, comprising of Bishan Singh Bedi and Mushtaq Mohammad, in becoming the most successful Asian captain in Tests in Australia with three wins.
Cheteshwar Pujara, batting at number three, stood head and shoulders above the rest with 521 runs in the series. Not surprisingly, he was adjudged as the Man of the Match, and Man of the Series.
"It’s a great feeling for all of us. We’ve been working really hard to win a series overseas. And especially doing it in this country, it’s never easy. First hundred was special, scoring it in Adelaide and going 1-0 up is something which we were all aiming for. When you do that, there’s a good chance of winning the series," Pujara said at the post-match ceremony.
"As a batsman, you just need to get used to pace and bounce. Playing in different conditions, in South Africa, in England, in county cricket has helped me improve my technique. Definitely the best squad I’ve been a part of. Congratulations to the bowlers. Taking 20 wickets in never easy," he added.
India came into the Sydney Test having retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at MCG in the Boxing Day Test and a 3-1 margin seemed likely until the weather turned. Pujara and Rishabh Pant had scored big hundreds, and batted Australia out of the match and series.
With four sessions left to play, India enforced the follow-on after taking a 322-run lead. But the rain gods decided to inflict a lesser pain on the hosts.
Kohli referred to winning the series as the greatest achievement of his cricketing career, while expressing his joy at leading this unit.
"Only one word to say, I’m proud. To lead these players is an honour and a privilege. They make the captain look good. Definitely deserve to enjoy this moment. By far this is my best achievement. Has to be on top of the pile," he said in the post match ceremony.
"When we won the World Cup (in 2011), I was a young player. I saw the others getting emotional. This series will give us a different identity as a team. What we’ve been able to achieve is something to be really proud of," he added.
The skipper went on to praise Pujara for a fantastic series and youngster Mayank Agarwal for stepping up at the top of the order.
"Want to give a special mention to Pujara. He’s one guy always willing to accept things. He’s the nicest man around. Special mention to Mayank Agarwal too. To come in on Boxing Day and play like that against a high quality attack. Someone like Rishabh (Pant) as well, coming into his own and dominating attacks," Kohli said. Agarwal had been brought in for the third and fourth Tests with India not getting the required starts under KL Rahul and Murali Vijay.
Losing captain Tim Paine conceded they were outplayed in the last two Tests of the series, even if they had a chance in the opening Test at Adelaide.
"Tip our hats to India. Congratulations to Virat and Ravi. Huge effort to come and win a series overseas. In the last two Tests, no doubt. Had our chances to win in Adelaide. In Perth we did well. But we were outplayed in these last two Tests," he said.