On This Day: India's first Test series win in Australia

India’s Test series win Down Under on January 7 is the culmination of a journey of much sweat, blood and tears of the various sides from the nation that have toured Australia since 1947.

The architects of the victory were Cheteshwar Pujara, who made 521 runs in the series, including 193 in Sydney, and Jasprit Bumrah, who took 21 wickets at 17.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The Sydney Cricket Ground is a classical arena for Tests. It respects tradition but blends seamlessly with the modern times. Here, you have the Lady Members’ Stand built in a bygone era. Men are also allowed there these days.

The pavilion is still preserved and celebrated much like the timeless memorabilia that enrich the cricket museum in the stadium. The collection includes the baggy green caps of Victor Trumper and Don Bradman.

Then we have the willows used by two of Australia’s modern-day legends, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. Bradman’s Invincibles find a place, so do the Chappell brothers and the fiery pace duo of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. Not to speak of the destructive spin-pace combination of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.

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The SCG is truly an iconic cricket ground. It is adorned not just by bronze statues of Aussie legends, with Steve Waugh wearing his famous scarf and raising his willow greeting you as you enter through the main entrance, but also of a famous heckler.

Yes, there is a statue dedicated to the immortal barracker from the SCG Hill, Yabba, whose real name was Stephen Harold Gascoigne. Yabba would taunt cricketers from the Hill in his unique voice, his sharp comments laced with humour. Yabba passed away in 1942 but his memory lives on.

The ambience at the SCG is relaxed, with the eateries outside the stands having spacious seating arrangements.

The Bradman Stand houses the media box. And leading up to the press enclosure you have tastefully done framed photographs with profiles of some towering cricket writers from the past such as Bill O’Reilly, the former leg-spinning great who evolved into a formidable cricket writer, and the highly regarded Ray Robinson.

And it is appropriate that as India approached a historic maiden Test series triumph in Australia after 71 years of trying, the man at the helm is someone who respects Test cricket immensely.

Virat Kohli is passionate about Test cricket, considers it the ultimate challenge spread across five days and wants the next generation of cricketers to keep the tradition going.

Kohli also has this obsession about winning Test series away from home. Not too long ago, after India failed in its bid to conquer South Africa at Centurion, a visibly downcast Kohli said to win Test series overseas, a cricketer had to “eat, drink, sleep and dream” thinking of it.

The Indian captain’s fascination for Tests — he is the best batsman in the world across all three formats — despite the Indian Premier League millions is something to be lauded. It’s important that India has Kohli leading the side because he does carry the message of Test cricket forward to the next generation.

But the man has his faults. He can be brash and ill-tempered on occasions and has had his share of run-ins, but his desire to break through barriers in Tests makes him special in this age.

Meanwhile, in the media box, Cricket Australia is quick in ensuring that the correspondents who are vegetarians have a good variety to choose from.

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The first day was bad, with hardly any vegetarian stuff around, but the Cricket Australia media team headed by Tim Whitaker, head of communications, is on the ball.

Meanwhile, India’s left-arm Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav has the Australian batsmen in a tangle with his delicious mix of Chinaman, wrong ’uns and flippers.

Kuldeep, an attacking bowler with fizz, adds another dimension to the Indian attack. There is a buzz around the ground when he has the ball.

Keeping Kuldeep’s spirits up is Rishabh Pant behind the stumps. This young powerhouse has captured the imaginations of fans Down Under.

For someone just into his 20s, Pant is an incredible talent. With the willow, he can create, innovate, either use the pace on the ball or strike it with enormous force. His six over long-off off Josh Hazlewood was a stunning blow where the length was picked quickly and then the bat speed and wrists propelled the ball over the ropes.

And behind the stumps, Pant, even as he keeps the batsmen engaged with his rather humorous words, is a much-improved wicketkeeper who can only get better.

Kuldeep picks five, Australia follows on, but the final day’s play is washed out. For once, the sun doesn’t come out in Sydney.

Then, with a historic series win Down Under in the bag, the Indians troop out to celebrate.

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And the team pays homage to its batting superhero (of the common man), Cheteshwar Pujara, by dancing in the manner ‘Chet’ runs and walks — with limited movement of his arms. Pant leads the celebration, followed by the skipper.

A reluctant Pujara is finally goaded to shake a leg. Prominent in the group is Jasprit Bumrah, who with his ambling run-up, explosive quick-arm release, pace and bounce, had tormented the Aussie batsmen. The heady fragrance of victory envelops the Indian camp.

Indeed, January 7, 2019, is a day of history for India. A day when Australia was finally conquered in its own turf. It’s a culmination of a journey of much sweat, blood and tears of the various Indian teams that have toured Australia since 1947. Each of them had a role to play.

The normally bustling and bright Sydney’s Bondi Beach might have worn a gloomy appearance with all the rain around but it was an afternoon of sunshine and glory for India.

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