There are very few Test series that leaves you spellbound and wanting for more of a proper contest than the one that just recently concluded between India and Australia. This Test series, just like the famous one in 2001, was arguably the best Test series on Indian soil. Every Test match ebbed and flowed and the pendulum swung from one side to the other, session by session. Such was the competitive nature and the pressure on both sides that quite a few bridges of relationships were broken along the way, as both the captains, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith, admitted.
Going into the series, no one gave Australia a chance of troubling India on their own soil. India had been on a 19-match unbeaten streak and looked invincible in the past 18 months or so with all their top players on peak form.
They had managed to dominate Tests and whenever they had been in difficult situations, they managed to find a way to overturn them into victories. But what transpired was completely different and in a way, a very pleasant surprise.
Since England visited in 2012, no other team has really been able to put on a sustained challenge against India at home, but this was a whole different ball game, altogether. A series that banged and crashed its way around India through a month of pulsating action was something quite brilliant to watch and very few people will forget that so soon.
This series, just like every other series between two high profile sides, whose pulses are running high had a share of controversies, like the DRS controversy, the ‘brainfade’ as claimed by Steve Smith and lots of other chit-chat between two sides who are not afraid to give it to each other, both on and off the pitch.
When Kohli was asked whether he remained friends with the Australians after this intense and hard fought series, Kohli replied: “No, it has changed. I thought that was the case, but it has changed for sure. As I said, in the heat of the battle you want to be competitive but I’ve been proven wrong. The thing I said before the first Test, that has certainly changed and you won’t hear me say that ever again.”
Looking at the positives for India, Man of the series, Ravindra Jadeja, was a revelation, in many ways. He outperformed his spin partner Ashwin, who was carrying an injury all through the series and more than made up for him, as well as contributing with the bat at crucial situations of the game, just like his 66 in the 2nd innings at Dharamsala which helped India take a slender but psychologically significant lead.
Cheteshwar Pujara and KL Rahul were the most consistent batsmen out of all batsmen for India with massive contributions at the right time. They managed to ensure that the low scores of the likes of Kohli, Vijay and Rahane didn’t affect the team that much and overall, it was a splendid team effort.
Also, you could say Umesh Yadav has come of age in the series. He picked up 18 wickets and bowled some terrific spells troubling the Australian batsman always with his skiddy action and reverse swing. It was a thorough team effort that deserves a lot of praise for the way team kept fighting situations and also how they managed to win the final Test without their best batsman and influential captain in Virat Kohli.
In what was a comfortable win towards the end in the final Test in Dharamsala, India also managed to retain the No.1 ranking in Test cricket and were awarded with the ICC mace. It has been a terrific period for India in the last 18 months or so, especially in the longest format of the game and in that period, India also managed to achieve an incredible feat. Only three teams in the history of Test cricket have managed to hold series titles against all other Test sides at the same point of time. India, with this series win, hold trophies against all Test teams. The other two teams to achieve this were Australia and South Africa. Australia managed this feat first time when they won they beat India in 2004-05. South Africa also achieved this feat after they managed to beat Australia in 2012-13.
The grit and never-say-die attitude came through for India and a lot of credit should also be given to Australia for being terrific opponents in foreign conditions in India, something no team has managed to do in the last few years.