New Delhi: It was poetic justice at Perth. The Indian cricket team led by a suave yet aggressive Anil Kumble beat Australia in the Third Test by 72 runs, burying the ghosts of Sydney and writing in history books what could perhaps be one of the most memorable chapters of Indian cricket.
Charges of racism, possibility of the tour being called off, the ban on Harbhajan Singh - it was politics of cricket at its worst. But over the last 4 days, Kumble and his men didn’t take one step backward and faced the challenge with grit and determination.
The star of the match was comeback kid Irfan Pathan who shone both with the bat and the ball. Nineteen-year-old Ishant Sharma too bowled like a veteran and help build up sustained pressure on the Aussies, clinching the famous win
Addressing a press conference after the big win, a beaming Anil Kumble termed the victory as the biggest triumph of his career. Kumble – who took over the Team just before the series – said he believed the team could now rightfully claim to be the second best side in the world after their stunning victory.
"It's right at the top, not just overseas, at whatever I have been involved in both at home and away," he said.
The skipper made a careful mention of the incidents during the Second Test at Sydney and said he was especially proud of the way his players had been able to distance themselves from the bitter fallout between the teams.
"It's important that we could do it after what had happened in Sydney. We could show that India is a good Test unit. We have now done it in what is regarded as the home turf for Australia," he said.
'We had our moments in Melbourne and Sydney but I'm really happy that we could grab those opportunities here in Perth. We were 2-0 down and we knew could lose the series here if we didn't play really well so it was important that we came back and we've done that,” he added.
Kumble said while an India-Pakistan series would involve more emotion, an India-Australian took the game to a new level.
"An India-Pakistan rivalry is very difficult to take away from the equation but I'd say the one between Australia and India is right up there because of the quality of cricket the two sides have played in recent times," he said.
Though Australia still lead the series 2-1 and would retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy even if the series ends in a draw, Kumble said he was eyeing a victory in the final Test in Adelaide so that the team could return home with honours even.
''We came here to win the series, to play good cricket and show that the Indian team is a good Test cricket unit and I'm really happy that we've been able to do that. We came with that attitude to win the series, we can only now level it and I am glad we could win and can take the confidence to Adelaide,” Kumble said.
Kumble believed the visit to Canberra was important as it allowed him to speak to the team individually as well as a unit.
"I did discuss issues individually and also collectively. I'm really glad everyone responded and stepped up the plate," said the Indian captain who also took his 600th Test wicket during the match.
Almost inevitably, Kumble heaped praise on his bowlers. "I think we bowled brilliantly. We took just one wicket before lunch but out of 25 overs we conceded only 70 runs. We bowled very well in partnerships."
The Pathan of comebacks
Irfan Pathan, the man of the match, was happy to be back in the thick of action and that he was bowling with the second new ball.
"I love bowling new ball for country. To do so in Tests is special. Also the way I batted. It's always very difficult when people talk negatively about you. Even those who want to help talk negative things. That's where the character comes out. It's been a tough time for me, I have worked hard on my action and game and it's showing,” he said.
On the field, one of Pathan’s gestures was caught on camera. He was seen holding his hand close to his ear and he said it was just to let the boys know he wanted to hear more cheer on picking up a wicket.
Aus that! Gracious in defeat but raring to go
Meanwhile, Australia said they were confident they will regroup from the 72-run defeat by India on Saturday to win next week's fourth and final test in Adelaide.
"Australian teams historically have been able to bounce back," captain Ricky Ponting told the news conference. "If we lose a game or have things not go our way we can turn things around pretty quickly. That's what our whole focus will be now. We played some great cricket in Melbourne, we played some great cricket in Sydney. We've let ourselves down a little bit in this game but it's about how we bounce back from that now." Ponting said the visitors deserved to win the third test here and keep alive their hopes of squaring the series 2-2 in Adelaide but warned Australia would learn from their errors.
He said the home team were not at their best at the WACA, misjudging the pace of the pitch and making a string of fundamental mistakes. "It was a tough four days, India deserved to win the game the way they did. They outplayed us for the majority of the game," said Ponting.