Sparking a longing for the long game

A jubilant India captain Virat Kohli cheering as his team celebrate with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after they secured India's first Test series triumph on Australian soil.
A jubilant India captain Virat Kohli cheering as his team celebrate with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after they secured India's first Test series triumph on Australian soil.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

India captain Kohli hopes first series win in Australia will boost interest in Test cricket

SYDNEY • India captain Virat Kohli hopes the breakthrough Test series triumph in Australia will inspire renewed reverence and passion back home for the longest form of the game.

A draw at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday gave the visitors a 2-1 win - with the hosts being spared by the rain in a one-sided finale - and broke a 71-year cycle of unsuccessful tours Down Under.

Kohli hoped it would act as something of a counterweight to the popularity of shorter, more explosive brands of cricket that have increasingly dominated the Indian game.

"I see this series as a stepping stone for this team to inspire the next lot of Test cricketers," he said.

"To be passionate for Test cricket firstly. In a world where a lot of people want the easy stuff, matches that finish in the evening, it is important to spread that message of Test cricket.

"We want to build on this and always promote the message of Test cricket being the most important and valued format, which it rightfully is. This is our vision for Indian cricket."

Few players typify the long-form cricketer more than Cheteshwar Pujara, who has eschewed shorter formats to fine-tune his Test game and earned his reward with three centuries and 521 runs.

Kohli initially refused to single out any individual performers. When he did yield, it was not man of the series Pujara he lauded but seamers Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.

"If your fast bowlers are happy and fighting as a team, you can win anywhere in the world," he said.

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  • Centuries India produced across their four Tests against Australia, three from batsman Cheteshwar Pujara.

"In the past 12 months I would rate their contribution as far above all the batsmen."

Kohli played his own part with a century in Adelaide and, less skilfully but no less importantly, by winning three of the four tosses.

The lessons from series defeats in South Africa and England had laid the groundwork for this triumph that he said trumped even the 2011 World Cup triumph on home soil.

"It is more special purely because of the fact that we have badly wanted to win a series away from home," he added.

His opposite number Tim Paine desperately looked for positives but struggled to find many.

In Sydney, the follow-on enforced by Kohli, after being duly dismissed for 300, was the first time in 30 years they had suffered such ignominy at home. They were set a daunting 622-7 declared, powered by Pujara's 193, in the first innings.

For some Australians, the series will always carry an asterisk given their two best batsmen, Steve Smith and David Warner, were unavailable because of bans they received for the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.

The vaunted pace attack of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins failed to fire, except for spells in the victory in Perth. Australia were comprehensively outplayed the rest of the series.

Paine pinpointed the opener as one that got away and could have changed their fortunes. India won it on the fifth day by just 31 runs in Adelaide. He said: "We honestly feel we let that Test match slip. We had a number of opportunities and, when those key moments came up, India outplayed us."

Their squad for two Tests against Sri Lanka are due to be announced tomorrow, with the matches being Australia's last red-ball cricket before the Ashes tour to England later in the year.

Asked how the batsmen, who did not manage a single century, are to handle an English attack if they were not able to deal with India's quicks on docile pitches in Melbourne and Sydney, Paine suggested that not much would be changed.

"We can't help that we haven't got Mike Husseys or Michael Bevans," he added, referring to two explosive former players. "We've got what we've got and the group is trying as hard as we can to get better."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2019, with the headline 'Sparking a longing for the long game'. Print Edition | Subscribe