India: No longer a one-man army but a team of 11 heroes

The collective strength of the team shone through at Lord's just as it did in Brisbane a few months ago

Nagraj Gollapudi
Even before Virat Kohli declared* India's second innings, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were in for a surprise as they entered the Long Room inside the Lord's Pavilion at lunch. The entire Indian squad, led by head coach Ravi Shastri, was at the door step, lavishly cheering the pair on.
It was a mark of respect from the dressing room to the two tailenders after their unbroken ninth-wicket partnership of 89 runs had put India in an unassailable position. That unprecedented gesture played a big role in the two fast bowlers quickly changing and racing back out with even greater vigour to share new ball.
Kohli said later that he wanted at least 55 overs to bowl England out. That he believed India could knock a team out on their own turf in front of a partisan crowd was because he had a bowling attack so sharp, so incisive that it has been compared to some of the very best in history.
Bumrah, Shami and Ishant Sharma allied with the fast, furious and youthful Mohammed Siraj destroyed every England batter's confidence with a combination of pace, discipline, accuracy, consistency and clever presence of mind. It was such a compelling display that even the great James Anderson would have quietly appreciated it from his dressing room.
The show started with Bumrah's intimidating first over to Rory Burns. The left-hander left the field rattled. And it ended in the dying light, with just about half hour of play left, with Siraj gleefully dodging all his team-mates to go and pluck the stump he had just knocked back despite all of Anderson's best efforts.
India have now managed two miraculous wins in 2021 - at the Gabba in January and now at Lord's. The thread that connects both victories is the collective effort by the 11 members in the team. KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma put on a century opening stand, Kohli made a scrappy 42, and while England regained the advantage on the second morning with two quick wickets, Jadeja and Rishabh Pant took India to a strong total. By now, the pitch had flat-lined, but India's fast men bent their backs and brought it back to life to crack open England's batters, well everyone except Root, to limit their lead.
On the penultimate afternoon, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane batted out nearly two sessions to not just keep India afloat, but also resurrect their careers which were in danger after repeated failures. Every time England thought they had a foot in the door, they would be pushed out by more than one Indian hand. And then came 'Shamrah', an R Ashwin trademark to describe Shami and Bumrah's batting brilliance.
Kohli agrees that there is a pattern developing where India are now winning not due to the heroics of one player, but all 11. "KL and Rohit, had an outstanding partnership on day one," the captain told bcci.tv which conducted interviews with several Indian players immediately after the Lord's win. "The opposition put us [in] and [they thought] we were going to get blown away. Just the character we showed, to get a result in 60 overs on day five when the pitch was not offering anything to the bowlers... all I can say is I am really proud of the team. We have had some amazing overseas wins but this one is right up there just because of the belief and character we showed and that's been the hallmark of our team."
While he obviously had special praise for Shami and Bumrah's batting efforts, Kohli never thought they would help secure a lead so big that it just turned the fate of the match. "Unbelievable. We all knew that we are counting on Rishabh to carry through with the tail and get us extra runs. We were thinking, 'Okay, 200 would be great. 175-180, we'll take that as well to have a crack at them.' But 280 is something we could not have imagined.
"Just shows that in this game when you walk on to the field you have a chance as an individual. If you have that belief to take that chance special things can happen. Jasprit and Shami were outstanding - what they did shifted the momentum towards us. The opposition was completely out of the game. We knew that they were going to play for survival and if we got the right breakthroughs then it is going to be so tough for them which ended up being the case."
He might polarise opinions, but Kohli the captain, like the batter, has always been clear about his aim: play to win. Now he leads a team in his image, a fact made clear by Shami when he said none of the bowlers wanted to let the opportunity to win a Test match at Lord's go to waste. "There was no pace, low (bounce). But all of us including Ishant, Bumrah, Siraj and myself bowled really well. Our aim was to attack the stumps at all times and make them play because we had very limited number of overs. The biggest happiness is we now have the series lead. Incredible."
This collective strength is even helping young players to feel like they belong on the biggest stage. Siraj, for example, has now played a role in two historic overseas victories. As a teenager, when he was busy playing tennis-ball cricket in the dusty by-lanes and maidans in Hyderabad and Secunderabad, Siraj would dream of playing at Lord's one day. In his Test at the fabled ground, where many-a-fast bowler has been distracted by the vagaries of the slope, he emerged as India's highest wicket-taker. "From childhood I used to watch Lord's, but to play here now and perform and help the country win I cannot express my happiness. I will enjoy this."
Kohli has moved into the top echelon of Test captains with with only Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith boasting more Test match wins. But he is still work in progress. It is only recently that he has sought out and allowed the likes of Rahane, Rohit, Bumrah, Ishant and Ashwin to help him with bowling plans. Rohit was a key sounding board for Rahane in Australia, too. His success as opener has played a huge role in India successes and he has also played mentor to young players like Pant and Shubman Gill.
"To win a Test match like that you need character and that's exactly what everyone showed," Rohit said after the Lord's win. "Not just one or two guys, but all 11 came together at different stages, put their hand up and took the responsibility. And that's a great sign."
On Tuesday morning Shastri put a picture of the entire Indian squad along with the support staff bunched together under the visitors' honours board at Lord's. There was a palpable sense of joy on each and every face in that photograph because everyone in it had contributed to a miraculous victory. A win for the ages.
*Correction August 18, 4:40 AM GMT: The article previously said the standing ovation happened when India declared.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo