By: Chinmay Vaidya
In the most recent Follow On podcast, Paarth Joshi said the key to India winning the Test series against Australia would come down to how Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli performed.
Two matches later, India has a historic series win against the Aussies. Kohli became the first Asian captain to win a Test series down under. The series was going to shift one way or the other on Boxing Day and India took charge.
Pujara scored 521 runs during the four-match series, amassing 299 of those runs during the final two matches. He scored two centuries and proved to the top batsman for India. Pujara hasn't really appeared in other formats for India (he's got 5 ODI matches to his name), but his strength in the Test format showed in this series. He took the mantle of being an anchor for India and delivered.
Kohli did some damage himself in the latter two Tests, scoring 282 runs and putting together one half-century. He made some questionable captaincy moves (his decision to not give Australia a follow on in the third test is inexplicable), but at the end of the day he's the first Asian captain to defeat Australia in Australia. There can only be one first and Kohli has laid claim to it. After a successful era under MS Dhoni's leadership, India could experience similar results under Kohli. He's not a traditional captain and his leadership skills might come under fire, but he's getting results and historic ones at that. Kohli's performance in the 2019 World Cup will be another chance for him to build on his already incredible start as captain.
Rishabh Pant emerged as a key cog for India in the lower order, tallying 350 runs in the series. He's successfully adjusted to the Test format. After making a name for himself blasting IPL bowlers to the outer edges of the galaxy, Pant contributed crucial runs when the top order failed. Mayank Agarwal, another IPL regular, might have given himself a chance to open India's Test lineup for a long time after his strong starts in the third and fourth matches.
There are a few things India will need to clean up going forward. Jasprit Bumrah shined with 21 wickets and Mohammed Shami added 16, but India's spin options were ineffective. Ravindra Jadeja extended the team's batting lineup, but his absence shouldn't create the results it did with the tail in the first two Test matches. Jadeja is a highly valued three-way player, but India needs to find a suitable backup.
At the end of the day, it was a historic win. India got the result it needed. The celebrations are rightfully on.