Team India capped off a fairytale series win over Australia to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at the Gabba in Brisbane on Tuesday.
It was an epic triumph by an injury-hit Indian team against a formidable Australian side in a remarkable 328-run chase at Australia's fortress. The hosts had not lost a Test at the Gabba for 33 years.
When the final morning started amid rain threat, even the most optimistic Indian fans were hoping for a draw that would have helped the team retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Fortunately the rain stayed away and India rode on Rishabh Pant's cavalier 89 not out to romp home by three wickets.
Young opener Shubman Gill (91) and the ever-dependable Cheteshwar Pujara (56) set the platform for India’s win with a 114-run stand for the second wicket.
Gill was not afraid to play his shots even as Pujara tired down the Australian attack with his vigil. The Saurashtra batsman took a few nasty blows on his body and helmet, but battled on.
Pant played in his inimitable style and kept the chase alive. The southpaw mixed caution with aggression and it was a day in which dame luck smiled on him. He survived a stumping chance early on and a few mishits landed in no-man's land. It was a classic case of fortune favouring the brave.
India, who were bowled out for their all-time low total of 36 inside three days in the series opener at Adelaide, showed character to bounce back in the next Test at Melbourne. Then came the thrilling draw at Sydney, and Brisbane was labelled as the David versus Goliath battle.
India fielded two debutants in Washington Sundar and T Natarjan and the combined experience of the Indian attack was just four Tests as compared to the Australian quartet of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon who had more than 1,000 Test victims to their credit.
However, the Indians kept fighting hard and the 123-run stand for the seventh-wicket between Sundar and Shardul Thakur went a long way in India scoring 336 in reply to Australia's first innings total of 369.
Aussie flop show
Australian captain Tim Paine got the tactics wrong as he adopted a safety first approach. The Australians could well have declared on the fourth evening and attacked the Indian batsmen under overcast conditions. Later, on the final day, Paine did not attack enough when Pant was new to the crease.
The Indian team management, especially stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane and head coach Ravi Shastri deserve praise for instilling self-belief in the team members despite the absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli and injury woes. A 4-0 rout was on the cards after the Adelaide debacle and even on the final day of the series, India went for glory when conventional wisdom would have been to play out a draw.
This victory is even sweeter than the series win two years ago when India became the first Asian side to triumph Down Under. The Australians were a depleted lot then, while it was the exact reverse this time around.
Opener Gill and pacer Mohammed Siraj were the finds of the tour, while Sundar and Thakur impressed with their gritty show. The series win also means that India can seal a place in the final of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship with a 2-0 win over England in the four-Test series at home.
Amid the euphoria, the Indian think tank needs to look into the spate of injuries. But that can wait, for the moment one needs to enjoy this truly special win.