India head coach Ravi Shastri on Tuesday (19 January 2021) described his injury-hit side's gritty Test series victory over Australia as "unreal", especially after the Adelaide debacle where the visitors were dismissed for their lowest Test score of 36.
Shastri also said that the just-concluded series was the toughest tour ever for him.
"It is the toughest tour ever. Nothing surpasses this. After 36 all out, this is unreal," Shastri said after the three-wicket win in the fourth and final Test here which sealed the series 2-1 in favour of the tourists.
"Feeling defeated is one thing but giving up is not in our vocabulary."
Shastri said India's performance will not be forgotten by the cricket world for a long time to come.
India retained the coveted Border-Gavaskar trophy with the historic win here, successfully chasing a 328-run target.
Rishabh Pant (89 not out off 138 balls) intimidated the Australians with his breathtaking strokeplay, ending the home team's 32-year-old unbeaten run at the 'Fortress Gabba' on Tuesday.
Shastri was effusive in his praise for the young wicketkeeper-batsman, who has copped heavy criticism for erratic performances behind the stumps but earned renewed respect for his efforts with the bat.
"In his mind Pant was always chasing. You could see he was looking at the scoreboard," Shastri said.
"He is a good listener. As coach, you don't want to change anyone's natural ability but you need to strike the right balance between caution and aggression. You can't be reckless. Rishabh has learnt that," he added.
Shastri said Pant, who scored a 97 in the drawn Sydney Test, could have won that match for India, had he stayed.
"He could have finished the game in Sydney had he been there for some more time. This time he made sure he was there till the end," he said.
"When he doesn't keep well, people criticise him But he can help you win matches like these."
Pant is a match-winner, that's why we prefer to play him abroad: Shastri
His glove-work has often attracted criticism but the Indian team firmly backs Pant since he is a "match-winner" and an impact player on foreign soil, Shastri eulogised the young wicketkeeper after he shaped side's phenomenal win in the Brisbane Test.
"We play Pant abroad because he is a match-winner. When he doesn't keep well, people criticize him but he can help you win matches like these. Had he stuck around for some time in Sydney (drawn third Test), he could have won us that game as well. He has been brilliant and that's why we back him," Shastri told.
The coach was all praise for the entire group which showed tremendous character to bounce back after the humiliation in Adelaide, especially when then side missed stalwarts like Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
"The boys have performed so well that I am lost for words. The character of this team is amazing especially after the 36 all out at Adelaide," he said.
Shastri said despite not being with the side after the first Test, Kohli's enthusiasm still influenced the entire group.
The regular India skipper flew back to India after the series-opener for the birth of his first child.
"This team wasn't built overnight. Virat has been with us despite not being here. His intensity rubbed on to everyone else. (Ajinkya) Rahane might look calm but he is a strong man from inside. A tough character," he said.
Shastri also lauded the efforts of newcomers like Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan for their contributions in the historic series win.
"Washington Sundar was a net bowler, Natarajan was a net bowler. But they have played so well. Sundar batted as if he had already played 20 Tests. Same with Shardul who has played a lot of first class cricket but did well at the top level," he said.
Shastri termed the series win as one of the most memorable ones, which the cricketing world will remember for a long time.
"This is a big series win. I don't think the cricketing world will forget this. Some of us were in a lockdown for some six months whereas cricket had started in some other part of the world.
"To come here and play the way we have despite having our main bowlers injured, is phenomenal. The players know when they cross the boundary line, they are playing for India," he said.