India’s historic Test victory in Australia: A feeling that is hard to fade away
This 2-1 victory for India could not have come at a more suitable time.
Published - Jan 8, 2019 4:28 pm | Updated - Jan 8, 2019 4:28 pm
Never before in the history did a common Indian get up from sleep with so much glee as they did on January 7, 2019. The date will remain embedded in gold fonts for it was for the first time that an Indian cricket team beat Australia in their own den in a Test series. The occasion saw Indian fans and former cricketers taste an unprecedented joy for winning a Test series in Australia has always been considered the toughest in the circuit.
Yes, the reason that made a tour of Australia the toughest in the cricketing world – the highest form of cricket that the Baggy Greens played on their own turf that would rattle any opponent in the past, was missing this time. The absence of two of their prime batsmen – Steve Smith and David Warner – and a fragile batting line-up that could never replace the duo was the main reason why Australia never found to be a force matching the Indians who were hungry and determined to put it across this time. But yet a win is a win and India could not help the fact that Smith and Warner missed the series because of their own fault.
This 2-1 victory for India could not have come at a more suitable time. At a time when Test cricket’s popularity is sliding alarmingly; the skills required for the oldest and longest format of the game were vanishing fast along with bored spectators, this result is expected to inject a fresh dose of energy into the enthusiasm for Test cricket in the world’s No.1 Test-playing nation.
Team India’s top-rank holders’ tag wasn’t vindicated in the other two big away series that they played in 2018 – in South Africa and England but eventually, found itself established in Australia and under Virat Kohli, who is a few more wins away from becoming India’s all-time successful captain in Tests.
Winning in Australia: India had to wait for the longest
A Test victory in Australia is the achievement India had to wait the longest. Their first World Cup victory came in less than a decade after they started playing in the format. They won their first Test series in the Caribbeans in 1970-71, less than 25 years after playing the first Test match against the Windies. Against England, they had to wait for nearly 40 years for their first away Test series win which came in 1971.
India tasted their first Test series victory in Pakistan in 2004, over 50 years since starting to play the arch-rivals in the longer format. But the wait to beat Australia was the longest of them all. India first toured Australia in 1947-48 when Sir Donald Bradman was the skipper of the Baggy Greens. It was during this series that Mahatma Gandhi was fatally shot and the Indian cricket team was given its first thumping Down Under.
India could manage to draw three series in Australia since that tour and fought one valiantly to lose 2-3 but never could they win a series till 2019, a good seven decades.
Pujara and then the bowlers
A special mention needs to be made both about the Indian bowlers and batsmen for the historic Test series win. First, come the bowlers for they form a category which has historically struggled to earn victories abroad. Their performance in Australia earlier was more about individual brilliance but this is the first time that they delivered as a unit in Australia and consistently over the entire series. The Indian bowlers picked 70 Australian wickets in this series (all 80 could have been possible had there been no stoppage in Sydney) while the Australian bowlers could pick only 62.
The fact that the Indian pacers hunted in a pack and the spinners gave no respite to the opponent batsmen either made the wins look that much easier. India also have a strong reserve bench now which meant injury to a premium bowler saw another stepping into his shoes. The overall betterment of India’s fitness standards is the reason why we should celebrate our bowlers’ feat even more. This is a major difference that the current Indian side has with those in the past.
In batting, there was never a dearth of individual brilliance either. From Vijay Hazare to Sunil Gavaskar to Sachin Tendulkar to VVS Laxman to Rahul Dravid to Virat Kohli to Cheteshwar Pujara and others at different points of time, India’s batters never let their fans down when facing Australia on their turf. But Pujara found himself to be the luckiest one among all to earn the man of the series tag, thanks to his three magnificent centuries in this series.
Gavaskar had three in the 1977 tour while Kohli slammed four in the 2014-15 series but India could not the best side in those series. One of the biggest reasons why Pujara saw himself to be a lucky one is that he set the direction of the series with his first hundred in Adelaide that not only brought India back into the game on the very first day of the series but eventually won them the game.
After a failure in Perth where India lost, Pujara authored another great inning in Melbourne and again in Sydney. His epics at the all-important No.3 position made it easy for India to gain an early advantage over an Australian side that could never find an equivalent to the Saurashtra batsman in the entire series. For a cricketer who doesn’t play the IPL and displays a brand of cricket that resembles the vintage art, this performance is the best possible advertisement for the batting that suits Test cricket.
Asia breaches its final frontier
The Indian victory also marked the culmination of the defeat of the ‘white cricket bastion’. By winning the Boxing Day Test in particular and the series in general, India became the first Asian nation to win a series Down Under and Kohli the 29th captain to erase the previous 28s’ lifetime regrets of not being able to win a series in Australia.
This certainly draws a parallel between India’s latest win in Australia and their glorious World Cup victory in 1983 beating the Windies – something they had also done as the first Asian nation. Winning in Australia was always the final frontier for the Asians, just what winning in the sub-continent was for Steve Waugh when Australia were at their peak. And now they are even-stevens.
In 2004, India beating Pakistan in their own den under the captaincies of Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly was a similarly big achievement. The country was hysterical for it was almost after two decades that India could return it back to Pakistan, who under Imran Khan won on the Indian soil in 1986-87 – their first-ever. The victory on the Australian soil is something similar.
Captain Kohli now has on his CV something that nobody else has
Kohli thus has in his cricketing CV what no other Indian cricketer ever had and that makes him somebody extraordinary till the feat is matched again. The Indian captain was not in his best of forms in the series, failing to better Tendulkar’s record of six Test centuries in Australia. But what he just achieved as the captain that nobody from India and Asia and very few from world cricket have. With the next World Cup not too far away, this historic victory should instil in India a sort of confidence that is required to be the world beaters again, for the third time.