NEW DELHI, Jan 7 (Reuters) - India justified their top ranking with their breakthrough overseas win in Australia on Monday and captain Virat Kohli has reasons to be optimistic about leading a team which can dominate test cricket for years to come.
India have traditionally been formidable at home and fragile abroad, especially outside the subcontinent where harder or grassy pitches took the edge off their spinners and disconcerted their batsmen.
Their rise to the top of the test rankings under Kohli was built on strong home form and the 30-year-old has since been insisting on winning abroad to lend legitimacy to the status.
After defeats in South Africa and England, success finally came in Sydney when Kohli and his men ended India’s agonising 71-year wait for a test series victory in Australia.
“Having been to this country for the third time now and to understand what we’ve achieved here has never been done before, this is something we can be proud of,” Kohli said at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“This win will give us a different identity as an Indian team and can inspire kids to do the same for the country going forward.”
Australia missed the banned Australian duo of Steve Smith and David Warner but the tourists seem to have finally forged a formidable pace attack which can take 20 wickets regularly.
Kohli’s immediate thought was to preserve the seamers who hold the key to India’s success abroad.
“It’s important to take care of these guys especially,” said Kohli, who, along with wife Anushka Sharma, gave up their business class seats so the Indian pace bowlers could rest better during their trip from Adelaide to Perth.
“I think the most important thing is to look after these guys because they deserve a good break now and because they are the reason we are sitting here having won in Australia for the first time.”
India have also unearthed a new opener in Mayank Agarwal, who debuted in the Boxing Day test and struck two half-centuries in three innings after being flown in to help resolve India’s opening woes.
In Agarwal and teenager Prithvi Shaw, who missed the series with an ankle injury, India have identified their next opening pair after KL Rahul and Murali Vijay let them down in Australia.
Even more spectacular has been the rise of wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, who took a record-equalling 11 catches in Adelaide and struck 159 not out in Sydney.
The 21-year-old’s red hot form means Wriddhiman Saha now faces an uncertain future when he returns from a shoulder injury. (Additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; editing by Christian Radnedge)