Virat Kohli's dominant India reinforced their status as the world's number one team by winning a historic first-ever series in Australia on Monday in an achievement the skipper called the biggest of his storied career.
Australia were still 316 in arrears in Sydney when the match was called off due to rain on day five, leaving India with a 2-1 triumph after wins in Adelaide and Melbourne. Australia won in Perth.
“I want to say I've never been more proud of being part of a team, than this one right here,” said an overjoyed Kohli, widely considered perhaps the greatest player of his generation.
Their 2-1 triumph achieved what no other Indian side has managed since they started touring to Australia in 1947-48, with the foundations for success laid not in the first Test at Adelaide, but on their tour of South Africa last year.
It was there, and the subsequent tour of England, that he and coach Ravi Shastri identified the attacking brand of cricket that they wanted to play, all in preparation for Australia.
“We wanted to experiment with combinations and find out what suits the team best and take it forward from there,” said coach Ravi Shastri.
“So we learned a heck of a lot in South Africa, we learned a lot in England. We made mistakes, which we didn't make in this series. We learned from those mistakes."
India lost 2-1 in Tests to South Africa in January last year, and were then outplayed in England 4-1.
“So the most satisfying part of it [winning in Australia] was it was a team working towards this goal over the last 12 months,” said Shastri.
That journey has led to India boasting one of the most fearsome bowling attacks in the world, with the breakthroughs of speedster Jasprit Bumrah and spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
While India's batting in Australia was a class above, anchored by Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, it was the consistency of the bowling that made the difference, with no Australian batsmen scoring a century.
“The way the bowlers have dictated and dominated, not here but also in England and South Africa, it's something I haven't seen before,” said Kohli.
“Hats off to them, the way they've prepared, their fitness levels, and their mindset.”
So important was the win that Kohli, the best batsmen in the world in all three formats, placed it above being part of the Indian team that won the 2011 World Cup.
“It's obviously a very proud moment. More so because for the last 12 months we understand what we have gone through as a team, we understand the kind of cricket we have been able to play,” he said.
“The fact that the reward has come in the most historic series for Indian cricket is the cherry on top of the cake.”
And while accolades will inevitably fall on Kohli, he has consistently stressed through the series that it can never be about one person. “It was a team effort through and through and that's what we strive for. We strive to play well as a team,” he said.
“Single innings and single spells don't win games of Test cricket. We play to make the team win.” India was already the number one team in the world before the series began, with the win only shoring up their formidable reputation.
Kohli is passionate about Test cricket and said he wanted youngsters to look at what the team had achieved, and they way they have done it, for inspiration to keep the red ball game in focus as limited-overs formats gain ever more traction.
“I see this series as a stepping stone for this team to inspire the next lot of Test cricketers. To be passionate for Test cricket firstly,” he said.
“When Indian cricket respects Test cricket we know the fans are going to come in and watch Test cricket."
"We definitely want to build on this and always promote the message of Test cricket being the most important and the most valued format of the game which it rightfully is."
'Team India' fans jubilant after historic Test series win
Singing, dancing and waving massive flags, India's cricket fans were in party mode as their team achieved a milestone — their first-ever Test series win in Australia.
The two nations are fierce cricketing rivals and India, the number one Test side, came to Australia looking to create history after seven decades of trying.
The self-described 12th man of the team, the vocal Indian fans were a constant presence at the four Tests, eager to witness what seemed like an impossible task in the past become a reality.
“I am very happy now that the time has come that after 71 years 'Team India' is going to win this Test trophy,” renowned India fan Sudhir Chaudhary told AFP in Hindi via a translator outside the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Chaudhary — whose upper body and face is painted with the Indian tricolours of saffron, white and green and the name of his patron and favourite player, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar — embodies the passion of the supporters.
Cricket is hugely popular in India and getting on top of Australia on home soil has been a key goal after 11 previous attempts.
Chaudhary, 37, has followed the Indian cricket team for almost two decades, and made sure he was a visible presence at the SCG as he waved a national flag and blew a conch.
Other faithful fans also travelled from far and wide to Australia to cheer on their star cricketers. Long periods of rain at the Tests in Sydney and Melbourne did not deter them, with their singing and drumming bringing energy to the dismal sessions.
“It's a bit of an emotional rollercoaster,” British-based Rakesh Patel, the founder of the supporters group Bharat Army, told AFP.
“After two very tough series (against South Africa and England), we're finally going to win a series away from home."
“Some of these guys here have travelled from all over the world to be here, to see India beat Australia for the first time,” he added.
With India sewing up the series 2-1 after drawing the rain-sodden final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground and securing victories in Adelaide and Melbourne, the fans were planning a big bash.
“Our plan is to celebrate with the team. We are the 12th man of 'Team India', so we'll be celebrating with them, and then the party will go on,” Rajul Sharma, who heads up the Australian branch of Bharat Army, told AFP.
“It's hard to say when it's going to stop... So yeah Sydney, watch out for Indian fans! “