It may just be an advertising slogan, but in many ways, India could not have found a better way of settling scores. The margins of victory indicate that: 246 runs, eight wickets, an innings and 36 runs and an innings and 75 runs. India just kept on getting better and in the end, nothing – a flat pitch, an England opening partnership of 103, injuries to key players – could stop them from blowing Alastair Cook’s team away.
In many ways, minus the blip in Rajkot where India still showed immense strength and resolve to hang on for a draw, this was a perfect series. The one over South Africa last year was sweet but there were caveats attached to it, mainly about the turners on offer. This one against England was nothing like that: the spinners dominated, yes, but the pitches were even and provided support to both good batsmen and bowlers.
Here are five ways in which this was the perfect series for captain Kohli:
1. Lose toss, win match
The toss was supposed to decide the game. Virat Kohli won all four tosses against South Africa last year. The same thing happened against New Zealand in the first tour of the winter. Alastair Cook won the first toss in the series in Rajkot but failed to press home his advantage as India escaped with a draw. Then, Kohli got the coin to go in his favour in Visakhapatnam and India won the Test.
That is when it changed. Cook won the toss in Mohali, England supporters cheered, but India hammered them by eight wickets. He won another toss in Mumbai and England collapsed to an innings defeat. By the time, they got to Chennai, one message was clear: winning the toss is an advantage, but a motivated, strong team can snatch it away. Kohli even revealed that losing the toss had played a part in motivating the team further after the win in Mohali.
2. Fast bowlers to the fore
For all of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja’s mastery with both and ball (and no doubt, they were magnificent), the defining image of the series will be Mohammed Shami’s ripper which knocked Alastair Cook’s off-stump into two in the second Test in Vizag.
Throughout the series, India’s much-derided fast-bowling unit stepped up to the plate and bowled with fire and venom, even outbowling England’s. Shami bowled with fire in the three Tests he played, finishing with 10 wickets at an average of just over 25. And while the statistics may not show it, Umesh Yadav played his part in all five matches, softening up England’s batsmen with some snorters. He was unlucky to have catches dropped off him but still finished with eight wickets in the series.
Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar made solitary appearances but they did what was required and did not give England any breathing space, allowing Ashwin and Jadeja to swoop in for the kill.
3. Stepping up when required
By the end of the series, you lost count of the number of Indian players afflicted with injury. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were out from the start – they were soon joined by Wriddhiman Saha, Ajinkya Rahane and Mohammed Shami with even Murali Vijay picking up a knock in the last Test.
But what was excellent to see was how their replacements stepped up. Jayant Yadav came into the series into the second Test, replacing an out-of-touch Amit Mishra and immediately showed he belonged to Test cricket, taking nine wickets in three matches and slamming 221 runs in four innings, with a century to boot.
KL Rahul recovered from failure and injury to hit 199 in Chennai while Parthiv Patel made a good return to Test cricket after eight long years, excelling with the bat and doing decently, despite some drops, behind the stumps as well.
And of course, there was Karun Nair. He stepped into the boots of Rahane, huge boots to fill. And then promptly went where only one Indian has gone before – scoring a magnificent triple century and setting India up for their biggest win in the series.
4. Virat Kohli’s magnificent form
If there were any questions about his capability in Tests, Virat Kohli brushed them away with this monster of a series. He was unfortunate to be dismissed hit-wicket in the first innings of Rajkot, but there was no backward step thereafter.
A fighting unbeaten 49 helped India draw in Rajkot and from there on, Kohli was unstoppable, hitting 167 and 81 in Visakhapatnam, a half-century in Mohali and then, the magnum-opus, 235 in Mumbai. Of course, the spotlight shifted to Karun Nair a bit in Chennai, but Kohli deservedly received the Man of the Series, not just for his excellent batting, but his incisive and intelligent captaincy.
5. Decoding the DRS
It is easy to forget this but India were strangers to the Decision Review System when they started the series, this being the first time, the system, with all its components including the ball-tracking system, was being used in its entirety in a series involving them.
By and far, by the time, the series ended, India had pretty much decoded the DRS. In the early stages, there was a bit of confusion – especially in Rajkot, Cheteshwar Pujara failed to review an incorrect decision while in Vizag, Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja spent up two reviews. But as the series progressed, Virat Kohli became much more adept at calling for the review, as evidenced in the last Test.
He correctly called for a review to dismiss Joe Root for 88 at a crucial juncture in England’s first innings, when most around him were unconvinced. The same situation played out in England’s second innings as well: Root was given not out on a leg-before-call and Kohli again, reviewed correctly to send the batsman back to the pavilion.