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India vs Australia | Vasu: Kohli's Men Seal Special Place in Indian Cricket Folklore

India’s greatest overseas achievement, a Test win in Australia after 71 years of trying and failing, came in front of near empty stands, a fine drizzle calling an end to the Sydney Test, sealing the 2-1 win, with little room for fanfare and no room for footage of that golden moment. But, years, even centuries down the road, it will be there in black and white: Virat Kohli led his band of enforcers where no Indian captain of the past had.

Anand Vasu |January 7, 2019, 5:05 PM IST
India vs Australia | Vasu: Kohli's Men Seal Special Place in Indian Cricket Folklore

India’s greatest overseas achievement, a Test win in Australia after 71 years of trying and failing, came in front of near empty stands, a fine drizzle calling an end to the Sydney Test, sealing the 2-1 win, with little room for fanfare and no room for footage of that golden moment. But, years, even centuries down the road, it will be there in black and white: Virat Kohli led his band of enforcers where no Indian captain of the past had.

The journey ended in Sydney, but it began in South Africa and continued in England. Along the way there was a bullheadedness to the team that worked well for them on the field and a pigheadedness to them that set them back off it. Repeatedly selection blunders were made, usually because of indifferent reading of a pitch or backing a hunch that was a punt at best. When they slipped up, there were enough people to point out these errors, both constructively, and with glee, but Kohli kept his lot in a bubble, immune to all feedback or criticism, the invisible membrane only allowing praise to seep in.

When there were errors of judgment in shot selection or in tactics on the field, these too were brought to the attention of captain, coach and beyond, but once more the response was a bat as broad as Pujara’s. It was as though this team knew better than everyone else, and they had all the answers.

The only problem was that they were not winning. In South Africa, India lost both in Cape Town and Centurion, and just to mention one curiosity, Ajinkya Rahane was dropped, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar was left out after being both the best bowler and most steady batsman in the first Test. In England the team insisted that the results did not reflect how close the series was, and in slightly different circumstances they might have won the series. Except, the scoreline was 4-1, which kind of makes that sort of talk sound a touch hollow.

Virat Kohli and Allan Border

In Australia, however, history has been made, mistakes learnt from, the result signed sealed and delivered. While this does not change what happened in the past, it has certainly given the team the right to tell the world: We told you so, now you see, we were right all along.

“This journey started in South Africa, it’s not only the preparation for this tour but also a lot of things that were required to win in Australia which was going to be the toughest. We knew that. We just worked on rectifying the mistakes, we didn’t work on feeling good about the things that we did well, as a team we focussed on the things that we didn’t do well and sometimes those things don’t sound too good but you need to accept a lot of things if we are to win as a team,” said Kohli.

“So we laid out a lot of those things on the table and no one took offence to anything and anyone accepted it that yes we have made a lot of mistakes in certain areas, and come game time and game situation we were better than the opposition in those areas. That’s the progress of a team, it is pretty basic but the one thing that we always stuck to what was good intent and doing things for the right reasons. We always did things to help the team and that’s why we have been rewarded with the series win like this.”

Ravi Shastri, the coach, who is missing from the background score of one of India’s major wins — he has been behind the commentators’ mic for most of India’s golden moments in the recent past — backed up his captain.

“It’s 12 months, this tour didn’t start in Australia. This tour started 12 months ago in South Africa, where we said there’s a certain brand of cricket that we are going to play, we will experiment with combinations, find out what suits the team the best and take it forward from there,” said Shastri.

“We learnt a lot in South Africa and we learnt a lot in England. We made mistakes which we didn’t make in this series, we learnt from those mistakes and fired it home properly. So the most satisfying part of this was it was a team that was working over those last 12 months.”

After a year of hard toil in 2018, India have begun 2019 on a strong, happy note. They’ve put in a sustained effort and earned the right to celebrate, rest up, reflect on their legacy achievement and then make the most of what the rest of the year has to offer.

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1 India 5046 120
2 New Zealand 3241 112
3 South Africa 3177 102
4 England 4593 102
5 Australia 3672 102
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1 England 6745 125
2 India 7364 121
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
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1 Pakistan 8366 270
2 Australia 6986 269
3 England 5568 265
4 South Africa 4720 262
5 India 10071 258
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