Karun Nair snapped up the stump in one swift move with his left hand, just like he had clasped the ball in his other hand a moment earlier. At the bowler’s end, Ravindra Jadeja, didn’t waste any extra time celebrating his seventh wicket. He went straight for the stump closest to him and uprooted it before breaking into a jig. India had just delivered the knockout blow to the English in Chennai after having already left them flat on the mat before getting here. And, it was only apt that the two most influential heroes of the win got dibs on the customary memorabilia.
A young man playing only his third Test innings had scored a triple-century. A left-arm spinner, who was otherwise considered more as a metronomic accomplice to R Ashwin’s mastery, had left the English batsmen in tangles on the flattest wicket of the series. India had just fortified their ascendancy with a comprehensive win to justify their place at the helm of Test cricket. England had just fallen off the cliff.
“‘Absolutely brainless. Idiotic, stupid, whatever word you want to use.’ Short and sweet from @GeoffreyBoycott,” tweeted Test Match Special. And even Boycott sounded like he was being lenient. The collapse on Tuesday was abject. It was a meek surrender. England won four tosses in the series. They made 400 in Mumbai and came close to scoring 500 here after batting first. They lost both Tests by an innings. But on both occasions, it only looked like they had been shown their place by a stronger and more complete Indian team.
That the final win was scripted by Jadeja and Nair — one who wasn’t expected to play and the other who wasn’t supposed to star — summed up the present indomitability of the Virat Kohli era that’s now extended to a year-and-a-half. For, it showed that India is no longer a team that needs all the stars to be in place, quite literally, to dominate. Of course, the batting and bowling charts were led by Kohli and Ashwin, respectively. Not surprising, considering they are the biggest match-winners India have produced in this format since the dawn of the post-Tendulkar era. Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara kept laying anchor and forging strong foundations for the rest of the team, scoring two centuries each in the process.
But what stood out was the way in which they kept finding a star at every step along the way. Injuries continued to plague them to the extent that India never fielded their best possible XI in any of the Tests.
But from Parthiv Patel making a dramatic comeback after an eight-year hiatus to K L Rahul cementing his place at the top of the order in Chennai and of course, the tireless performance from Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, India didn’t just keep ticking all the boxes, they kept adding a new ones and ticking them as well. In Chennai, they posted the highest-ever total in India’s Test history, amassing 759 for seven on the board. Kohli, Pujara and Vijay contributed all of 60 runs to that score. Ashwin’s figures for the Chennai Test were an astonishing one for 206. Yet, India galloped to a famous win.
There was no brouhaha about their celebration. No mention of this being a “revenge”, the theme the broadcasters had floated to market the series. Just a few understandably enthusiastic fist-pumps and hugs. And even captain Kohli wasn’t prepared to overstate the extent of his team’s achievement, a 4-0 thumping of the English, who were the last team to win a Test and a series here. He, in fact, called it a “foundation” to what his team plans to achieve and preferred to look ahead.
“This is just the foundation that’s been laid for us to carry on for lot many years. It’s just the beginning. It’s nothing that we want to achieve, it’s not even a tiny bit of that. We understand where we want to go and hopefully, the guys can keep putting this kind of effort and take the team where it belongs,” he said.
An ashen-faced Cook looked as close to a complete wreck as you can expect a cricket captain to ever be when it was his turn to explain the catastrophe that his team had just played a part in earlier in the day. Amidst warding off the barrage of questions about his future as England captain, he did somehow manage to conjure a few words that explained his team’s present state of mind.
“Blood, sweat and tears went into this tour but the bottom line is we weren’t good enough to compete with India,” he said.
As the Indians walked around the MA Chidambaram Stadium for their victory lap, the English were left weary, deflated and licking their wounds, which have only kept on accumulating as this long tour has worn on. That flight back home couldn’t come earlier. Christmas couldn’t come earlier.