Captain Rahane praises his team’s “character” while head coach Shastri says this series “will never be forgotten”
From 36 all out in Adelaide to levelling the series in Melbourne to a fighting draw in Sydney, India finally finished a thrilling four-Test series with a slim win in Brisbane to take the series 1-1. Here’s how India captain Ajinkya Rahane, Man of the Match Rishabh Pant and head coach Ravi Shastri reacted after the win:
Rishabh Pant, 89*
“I think this is one of the biggest things in my life right now. I am happy that all the support staff from the team and all the fans over here supported me a lot even though I wasn’t playing in the starting matches but it has been a dream series I can say that. After not playing the first match, I have been practising hard and everything paid off because we won the series.
“The team management always backs me and tells me that you are matchwinner and you always have to go and win the match for the team. That’s the only thing I keep on thinking every day that I want to win matches for India and I am happy that I did it today.
“It was a fifth-day pitch and the ball was turning a bit and I thought I had to be a bit disciplined with my shot selection. And if you win the match, everything pays off well. I think everything went so well for us, so I am happy.”
Ravi Shastri, India head coach
On missing players: “This team has tremendous character and self-belief. Even after being bowled out for 36, the team had the belief that they could come back. Virat [Kohli] also left the team, but he will always be with us. That’s because this team wasn’t built during this series. This team has been built over the past five or six years. And Virat Kohli’s character has rubbed off on the team. Ajinkya Rahane led in Virat’s absence, and while he’s a cool customer, he’s a real fighter from inside. He handled the troops really well in Virat’s absence.
India’s young players Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur and Rishabh Pant: “What do I say about Rishabh Pant. We play him in overseas matches because he’s a match-winner, and he showed us exactly why during this series. When he makes some errors in keeping, then people start criticising him. But the way that he batted today, he wins matches for us. In fact, the way he was batting in Sydney, he would have won the game for us by staying at the wicket for another hour. I think his performance has been exceptional. Guys like Washington Sundar and Mohammed Siraj showed how good their temperament is. Washington Sundar was a net bowler. Natarajan was a net bowler. He [Natarajan] played one-day cricket, then T20 cricket, and got his Test debut here. And the way Washington Sundar batted, it seemed that he was a veteran of 20 Tests. The kind of temperament he showed in his partnership with Shardul Thakur…a thing to mention about Shardul, he’s been through the hard grind of first-class cricket, but he got a chance here, and he grabbed his opportunity with both hands.
India’s brand of cricket: What these boys have achieved in this series is a massive feat. This is a series that we will never forget. I don’t think the cricket world will forget this series for a long time. As long as cricket is played, this series will not be forgotten. Our boys were in quarantine for six months. Some of the guys who live in metro cities weren’t even able to step out of their flats. And the only cricket they had was the IPL. Australians and New Zealanders were able to step out into parks and train June onwards. As a team, they [Australia] also played against England. Despite that, to come here and perform the way we did here is something creditable. Especially when all our main bowlers were injured. There’s this self-belief about this team, that once they cross the boundary line and enter the field, all 11 players know they are playing for the India badge. Nothing else.
On Pant’s innings: “He’s batted really well. If he keeps winning matches by keeping his composure like today, then it will be a huge thing for us.”
Ajinkya Rahane, captain
“It really means a lot to us. I don’t know how to describe this victory, but I am really proud of all the boys. We showed character, attitude…especially after the Adelaide Test. We decided we will fight very hard. We know Australia in Australia is a very dangerous team. We just promised not to think about results. I don’t know how to describe this victory. I am just really proud of each and every individual. When I went in (to) bat, the conversation between me and [Cheteshwar] Pujara was for Puji to bat normal, but I wanted to play with intent and if we get close to the total, then Rishabh and Mayank can get the total for us. It was all about the intent out there after lunch. Credit to Pujara for the way he batted, with the mental pressure. Washington Sundar was really good at the end.
“Taking 20 wickets was the key (playing with 20 players across the Tests), and that’s why we opted for five bowlers. We knew that if we are going to win this Test match and the series, then five bowlers will be the key. Washington Sundar got (us) that balance in place of [Ravindra] Jadeja. Unfortunate that Jadeja got injured in the last Test match. Washington Sundar got that balance for us, to allow us to play five bowlers. All credit to them. [Mohammed] Siraj had played two Test matches, Saini one, Shardul Thakur one. Washington in his debut Test match. The way these guys handled pressure was really good.
“As I said, after the Adelaide Test match, we didn’t discuss anything, about what happened in that Test. We just wanted to play that game. We wanted to play good on the field. We weren’t thinking about the result. Each and every individual contributed to the Melbourne Test match and that was the key moment for us. I am really happy for that.”