After the fall of Rohit Sharma's wicket, all the Australian players ran in, put their arms around each other and roared collectively. Australia still needed five more wickets to win, but they could smell the victory in Delhi. To win a series in India, in any format, in any era, and against any India team has always been considered a pinnacle of success in Australian cricket. The current bunch of players had achieved one of the greatest feats in the last two decades. Exclude the World Cup triumphs and this was arguably Australia's finest accomplishment in the ODI games in the past 25 years.
This was one against all the odds. No Australian team had ever won a five-match series after trailing 2-0. It had been a decade since the Australian team had won a bilateral series in India. India had not lost a series at home since 2015. This was a team missing Steve Smith, David Warner, and Mitchell Starc. This was a team that had lost 20 out of 29 matches. Apart from Aaron Finch, no other player had played in excess of 100 ODI internationals.
Before the Australian team arrived on the Indian shores the general consensus was that even a solitary win in the five matches would be seen as an accomplishment. The selectors copped plenty of flack and there was still the belief that Australia simply didn't have the quality of players to push India in their own backyard. To sum it up, all the odds were against them.
As Justin Langer often says, "There is nothing more the Aussies enjoy more than an underdog". Langer in his short stint as a coach has been criticised for selections and tactics. The axing of Travis Head, the demotion of Glen Maxwell to No 7, the selection of Ashton Turner and Peter Handscomb were seen as flaws. But behind all the madness there has been a plan which has led to success. Turner single-handedly won a match in Mohali, Handscomb overcame the issue of spin bowling through the middle overs and Khawaja showed he can lay the foundation at the top of the order on a consistent basis.
Before the tour, it was seen as 'selection', but such has been the resurgence that picking a World Cup team is now a process of 'elimination'. Australia has suddenly got depth in their batting, multiple options in the middle-order and a bowling attack that will only be boosted by the return of Mitchell Starc.
To succeed in any conditions the Australian theory has always been to have a bowler that can hurl the ball at express pace and have a wrist spinner who is capable of taking wickets. In the five matches, Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa combined for 24 wickets at 20.23. The pair has been monumental in scripting the downfall of the formidable Indian batting. Without Starc and Josh Hazlewood, Cummins showed he can be the leader with the ball. The right arm pacer struck in his first spell in four of the five matches to make sure the new ball was not wasted.
Zampa, on the other hand, provided Australia a wicket-taking option in the middle overs. It meant that India couldn't forge big partnerships or lay a sound platform towards the back end of the innings. The lack of wickets in the second powerplay was one of the prime reasons why the Australian performance had declined in the past two years. Zampa has helped rectify that issue and put the opposition on notice.
Ten years from now this 3-2 win might not even get a mention, but if Australia can conquer the World Cup again in England, it will be past three weeks that the players will reflect on highly. Langer has had his fair share of critics, but this tour has proven that he can get the best out of his players, especially when the tide is flowing against them.
"It's huge, Just winning a series in India is massive. It's a tough place to come and play cricket, against a very good Indian side. They beat us in Australia, so to come back from those losses and win three games in a row is a great feeling," Khawaja said after the win.
Credit should also be given to selectors for sticking to a group of players they felt could win a series in India. By no means should this series be scrapped under the carpet, it is one of the most monumental accomplishments.
Ever since the ball-tampering saga, the Australia public has been craving for a side that can make them feel proud about the national cricket team. A 3-2 series victory is sure to put a smile on many people's faces. Importantly, it will also give the Australian fans the belief that they can compete with the elite teams at the World Cup and push for a sixth title.
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"I can't believe the fallout from this Test is his captaincy, that's just an absolute joke," Handscomb told reporters.
Smith has faced accusations he had been trying to cheat by scuffing up batsman Rishabh Pant's guard at the crease during the tense drawn third Test at Sydney, which left the series locked at 1-1.
The Sydney Test is set for an intriguing final day in which India will primarily try to bat out three sessions.