INDIA TOUR OF AUSTRALIA, 2018-19
Rain in the final day denied India a shot at 3-1 though. © Getty
72 years of holding their breath and India can finally exhale. They now have a Test series win in Australia, a country that’s ransacked their dignity like no other. And every digital-age argument that stood debunked in the middle of India’s perpetual malaise Down Under will now find a new lease of life on social media. It’s a day like no other in the history of Indian cricket.
It was unkind of Sydney to rain all day. It couldn’t perhaps see Australia lose, so a draw it was. India were denied a real shot at picking the ten wickets they needed to win the series 3-1 but they will take a 2-1 series victory, especially after enduring a year where being good wasn’t good enough at all. They lost 2-1 in South Africa and then lost 4-1 in England, and both those scorelines belies how different this team is to any other India have produced. Cheteshwar Pujara’s boringly stunning batting, his perverseness to not do it the Australian way, and the relentless pace trio led by the revolution that Jasprit Bumrah is, ensured that the ghosts of 2018 remained in 2018.
With the covers on right from the start of the day, it was a foregone conclusion that fourth and final Test would end in a draw. But India would have wanted to finish on the field than in the dressing room, egging the “Kohli cam” into overdrive as a full house crowd cheered them on. They had none of it here at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which had a sprinkling of Indian fans who had waited an eternity and waded through rain to see Virat Kohli and Co. lift the trophy. The fact that India pulled off a collective dance step, on the lines of England’s sprinkler dance and Pakistan’s push-ups, made it special.
For Australia, the fact that no play afforded them a better day at Test cricket sums it all. They kind of pulled off a coup in Perth with a series-levelling win but that’s all they had in the tank. India roared back in Melbourne to take an unassailable series lead and Australia’s wheels came off. They looked mentally shot in Sydney, and even followed-on at home for the first time in 30 years.
It’s no secret that Australia missed Steven Smith and David Warner but it’s also worth noting that the essence of India’s victory lay in how their batsmen blunted one of the world’s best bowling attack in their home conditions.
Pujara was the difference between the sides, and rightly won Player of the Series ahead of Bumrah. The 30-year-old scored 521 runs from 1258 balls this series, effecting blocking more than what’s fashionable in modern times, especially in Australia where machismo starts right from the forward defence. He ended with three defining hundreds as Virat Kohli, probably jaded after a year of being the Sachin Tendulkar of the 1990s, happily played a sidekick for a change.
This series win is the first by any Asian team in Australia, and is a testament to the enormity of this achievement. Even the World Cup has been around for only 43 years; India had to wait 72 here — think about it.
The series had started on a nervous note. Cricbuzz’s session report for the first morning in Adelaide read “India drive head-first into trouble”, after India had offered four slip catches in a hideous display of intent outside off-stump. A familiar script awaited. SPN India’s series hashtag #ChhodnaMat, which roughly means “don’t spare them this time”, had started to invite ridicule until India turned it around. And how.
Brief Scores: India 622/7 dec. (Pujara 193, Pant 159*; Lyon 4-178) drew with Australia 300 (Harris 79; Kuldeep Yadav 5-99) & 6/0