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December 17, 2012
Alastair Cook left the presentation in Nagpur overladen with trophies after England completed their first series win in India for 28 years.
Not just one series trophy but two, plus individual recognition as man of the series, completed a perfect start to Cook's Test captaincy as he joined Douglas Jardine, David Gower and Tony Greig as the only England skippers to win a Test series in India.
Add his unofficial stint as Test captain in Bangladesh when he stood in for Andrew Strauss and he has already twice led England to victories in sub-continent conditions which have so often proved alien.
Cook even put the 2-1 series win alongside the accepted pinnacle for an England player - victory in the Ashes. "It is obviously a very special day, a special tour," he said. "I think it is on a par with the Ashes. As an Englishman winning in Australia after so long meant a huge amount. But to be in that that dressing room there for that last half an hour knowing what we had achieved was a very special place and it will live long in my memory."
England's celebrations were a world away from their misery in Ahmedabad less than a month ago when they were beaten by nine wickets in the opening Test, their frailties against spin again apparent.
Since then, Cook has taken particular pride in England's ability to silence their demons and to adapt to whatever conditions have been thrown at them. His own run tally of 562 in the series led the way set the example with the bat as England conquered India's spinners and they also unveiled two superior slow bowlers themselves in Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann.
"We have played on four very different wickets," he said. "We didn't handle the Ahmedabad wicket so well, but the other three wickets were all very different in sub-continent style. Everyone in this squad can be proud of what they achieved, especially the way we bounced back after the heavy defeat in Ahmedabad.
"I was surprised at the level we managed to achieve so soon after Ahmedabad to be honest with you. I was talking about playing to our potential but I was surprised we managed to do it straightaway and put all those doubts to bed and prove to ourselves that we could bat in these conditions."
Cook credited a sharply-turning pitch in Mumbai, as advocated by India's captain MS Dhoni, with jolting England into a response.
"After the first game in Ahmedabad it would have been so easy to let head drops, but we showed a lot of character in Mumbai," he said. "I think the fact it was a result wicket in Mumbai really helped us.
"It freed us up knowing that one way or another there would be a result and that people weren't expecting us to win. Once we got over that mental hurdle and were able to trust our ability on these wickets with the bat we certainly made a big leap forward."
Very proud day! test series win in India...special!!! As I've said before..it's 5pm somewhere in the world! Time to get on it! #winnersp#ss— Matt Prior (@MattPrior13) December 17, 2012
But that recovery began earlier than Mumbai. It was Cook's defiant second-innings in the defeat in Ahmedabad that began to set the tone. "You want to prove that the captaincy is not a burden. To do it straight away is a big monkey of your back. It made me very proud that night when I went home after the game. If it gave other people confidence that is even more pleasing."
As the tour developed, Cook got the support he needed from senior players in the dressing room: Kevin Pietersen, the integrated version, looking content with life; Matt Prior, as big an influence on England as Adam Gilchrist once was on Australia; James Anderson, proving himself in India as a skilled practitioner on demoralising surfaces for fast bowling with old ball and new; and the ever-garrulous Swann, delighted to have a partner in crime in Panesar.
"They are big characters in the dressing room," Cook said. "The support they have given me, I couldn't have asked for anything more. To captain those guys can be tough in certain circumstances, but you want that, you want a lot of ideas and strong opinions because that is when you normally get the best thinking done."
Nagpur was the oddest test of all, a pitch that was strikingly slow and uneven at the start and which gradually became more docile, a perfect surface for an England side prepared to bat with discipline to avoid defeat and so win the series.
"We were slightly surprised by the pitch at the start, how low and slow it was," Cook said. "We thought it would get worse but actually it got better. We knew when we were batting in the second innings it was going to be very hard for India to take those wickets and if we applied ourselves with not too many soft dismissals it would be very hard to bowl us out."
England's authority on the final day was unshakeable as the Warwickshire pair of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell took their fourth-wicket stand to 208 in 79 overs, both making hundreds, before the sides shook hands on a draw with England 352 for 4 and celebratory hugs broke out on the England balcony.
"I can't credit the batters enough for fronting up and taking on that challenge. Normally there are a few nerves on day like this but the calm way that Trotty and Belly batted was just fantastic. You can say it's a flat wicket but when you know you have to bat for 150 overs a series win seems a long way away."
This article was updated at 2.30pm on December 17, 2012 with additional media conference material
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