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Smith's declaration of independence

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that not all chasers are created equal"

Steven Smith did not say those words after the draw in Melbourne, but he might as well have. His declaration at lunch on the final day at the MCG was conservative by Australia's standards, leaving India 384 runs to win from 70 overs. It reduced Australia's chances of victory, but meant they were all but assured of regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. And so it proved.

If a captain is to be judged on the result of a series, then Smith has delivered while standing in for Michael Clarke. It did not stop criticism of his delayed declaration and Australia's slow scoring during a rainy final morning. The Australian way, the coach Darren Lehmann and others have repeatedly said, is playing to win, not playing to avoid defeat.

Here, the goalposts changed. And they changed throughout the morning. After talking it over with Lehmann and senior players on the fourth night, Smith arrived at the ground intending to bat on for 10 to 15 overs and set India a target. But Shaun Marsh and Ryan Harris struggled to get the scoreboard moving quickly enough for that to happen, and Smith revised his plans.

In the end, Australia faced 23 overs and declared at lunch. Smith said a number of factors went into his thinking, including India's reluctance to push for Australia's last three wickets on the final morning in a Test that they had to win to keep alive their hopes of retaining the trophy. On what would become his final day as Test captain - he retired after play - MS Dhoni set the fielders back and played a game of defence.

"We do say we always play to win but it was one of those circumstances," Smith said. "India had an opportunity to take the new ball this afternoon and they didn't do that. We thought, you know what, we will give you a few less overs to get these runs.

"I thought they might have come out a bit harder and gone after us at the start and we might have got a few wickets there and we have got through their tail pretty quickly recently but it didn't turn out that way. We still got a series win which was important to us.

"I changed my mind a couple of times. I wasn't quite sure when to pull out. But I didn't really want to give India a crack with the batters they had in the shed and how good that wicket was."

India's target was always unlikely, but Smith had in the back of his mind the way India had batted at Adelaide Oval, where they had reached 315 before being dismissed in a chase of 364. Virat Kohli's 141 was especially worrying for the Australians, and until he was caught in the deep, it appeared India would win the first Test.

Kohli's record as a chaser is exceptional in one-day cricket, and in Test cricket he averaged 70.75 in fourth-innings chases before this match. The presence of a target allows Kohli to focus and Australia were very pleased to see the end of him in the first over after tea at the MCG, where he made 54 from 99 balls and then chastised himself on the way off.

"The wicket out here was much better than Adelaide," Smith said. "At least Adelaide broke up and spun a lot for Nathan, which created opportunities there. We certainly didn't have that out here. It was a very good wicket to bat on and we didn't want to give them an opportunity.

"India have some very good batters in their side, the wicket didn't break up at all, it was still a very good wicket, there wasn't any up and down movement, there wasn't any spin. We got a little bit of reverse swing which was handy for us. We really didn't want to give India a sniff to be honest, we got another series win which is what we were after and hopefully we can finish well in Sydney."

Smith said although he had discussed his declaration with others, the decision was ultimately his, and he said it was "very satisfying" to have the Border-Gavaskar Trophy back after Australia's 4-0 loss in India last year. The result was the first draw at the MCG since 1997, the second year of the drop-in pitches, and the first in Australia since the 2012 Test against South Africa in Adelaide.

Harris, who resumed batting with Marsh on the final morning, said Australia's original plan had been to chase their runs quicker, but India's bowlers had been disciplined and had not allowed the score to move as fast as Australia would have liked.

"Shaun and I went out with a bit of intent, but India bowled pretty well this morning," Harris said. "It was hard to score. I think that may have also played a part as well, 10 to 15 overs that was originally planned, we didn't have enough runs. If we had have gone out there and scored reasonably quickly this morning we may have been out there a lot earlier.

"But they bowled pretty well [and] they didn't take the new ball, which could have gone either of two ways, we could have scored a lot quicker or they could have gone through us. But they didn't do it and it was quite tough to get the ball away with it reversing and being so soft."

Australia fell four wickets short of victory when Smith bizarrely agreed to end the match early, with four overs remaining. It was a strange move for a team that usually prides itself on playing to win, but then, the whole day was a curious one by Australia's standards.