Virat Kohli was smiling ear to ear during the presentation ceremony at the Sydney Cricket Ground. India’s 2-1 series win was confirmed after the final day of the fourth Test was washed out and the match ended in a draw. It made him the first ever Indian captain to win a series in Australia in India’s 71-year history of playing Test cricket.
"By far, this is my biggest achievement," Kohli told former England player Isa Guha in the presentation ceremony. "It’s at the top of the pile. When we won the 2011 World Cup, I was the youngest member of the side. Saw everyone emotional there, but I didn’t feel it then. Here, after coming three times, this win means something else. The series win will give us a different identity, and what we’ve been able to achieve, it is something to be proud of."
India suffered from repeated batting failures during the South Africa and England tours in 2018 but in this series, the batsmen backed up the efforts of the bowlers. Kohli was the highest run scorer in the two other tours but this time, he finished third with 282 runs. Rishabh Pant was above him with 350 and Cheteshwar Pujara, who won the man of the match and man of the series awards, is the top scorer with 521. The Indian captain waxed lyrical about Pujara, who was remarkably dropped during the England series.
"We spoke about our batting as a team, wanted to do the basics. The old, hard grind. Special mention to Pujara, he’s been outstanding in the series, especially after his last time out in Australia. He’s one guy willing to accept things, he works on his game, he’s the nicest man around, and we feel happy for him," said Kohli.
India also seem to have found a solution to their opening batsman conundrum in the form of Mayank Agarwal. "Special mention to Mayank Agarwal too, he stood up as a champion on Boxing Day. Speaks highly of his mindset, but as a batting group we all contributed. It’s something that augurs well with the team," said Kohli.
That India possesses one of the best bowling lineups in Test cricket was confirmed in this series. Jasprit Bumrah was the highest wicket taker with 21 wickets. The trio of Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami most notably broke the record for most wickets taken in a calendar year, one that was previously held by West Indies’ superstar trio of Joel Garner, Michael Holding, and Malcolm Marshall.
"The way the bowlers have dictated and dominated, not here but also in England and SA, it’s something I haven’t seen before. Hats off to them, the way they’ve prepared, their fitness levels, and their mindset. They discuss how to take wickets, and then they dictate their plans to me. It’s a revelation in Indian cricket, and something for the bowlers at home to learn. These guys will be looked up to for a long, long time, and they deserve to break the record of the great West Indian fast bowlers," he said.
Kohli said that while this may be a great achievement, it is only a stepping stone for the Indian Test setup. "The average age is quite low, but most importantly we had the belief. We had that in South Africa and in England, and when you’re working in the right direction then God knows you’re honest. We want to do the best for Indian cricket, and this is outstanding, but it’s just a stepping stone," he said.
This loss is a continuation of a series of poor results for the Australian team since the ball-tampering fiasco in March 2018 and Kohli said that they will bounce back from it. "Australia are always going to be competitive. Every team goes through a transition, and their dominance kept world cricket exciting for so many years. I’m sure they’ll regroup as a side and play some exciting cricket in the future," he said.
The best Indian side I have been part of: Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara was all praise for the bowlers. "This is the best Indian side I have been part of. And I would also like to congratulate all our bowlers. We’ve had four bowlers, and it’s not easy taking 20 wickets, so credit goes to all our fast bowlers and spinners, remarkable. I’ll be playing some first-class cricket back home, and I’ll play some county cricket during the IPL. But the next Test series is some 6-7 months away, it’ll give me some time to prepare. I would like to play white-ball cricket, but Test cricket is my priority, and it always be so," he said.