Steve Smith was disappointed and apologetic after his side lost the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but India captain Virat Kohli was not in a generous mood, claiming any friendships he had with Australian players were finished forever.
India came back after losing the first Test of the series to win 2-1, Australia stumbling at the last hurdle.
The four matches have been compelling and marred by controversies. Smith was condemned for looking towards the balcony for advice on the decision review system in the second match, Kohli claiming the captain and his side were consistently cheating. He refused to offer any other evidence or back away from his claims.
Smith was then seen to mouth “f..king cheat” in a moment of frustration after Murali Vijay claimed a grounded catch as the match slipped away from Australia in Dharamsala. The Australia captain scored 499 runs, including three centuries, in the four Tests.
“I am sort of proud of my performances in this series,” he said. “I set myself high standards and I wanted to lead from the front with my performances. I have been very intense and in my own little bubble and at times I have let my emotions falter a little bit throughout this series and I apologise for that. That’s a big stride for me moving forward and something I can really learn from and continue to grow as an individual and as a leader.”
After spending the morning before the final Test started with the Dalai Lama, Smith spoke about keeping things in perspective. Kohli, who did not play in the last match because of a shoulder injury, was not in such a forgiving mood.
He said before the series that he was friends with a number of Australian players. But yesterday he said: “It has changed. I thought that was the case, but it has changed for sure. As I said, in the heat of the battle you want to be competitive, but I’ve been proven wrong. The thing I said before the first Test, that has certainly changed and you won’t hear me say that ever again.”
Both captains gave credit to the opposition, Kohli saying that to win against an Australian side that would not give up made this one of the best series he has been involved in.
“I think they had the belief of making things happen in these conditions, that’s something that I sensed in their body language and the way they played their cricket,” he said. “They believed they could win sessions and win situations and that was the most important thing, and the most challenging thing for us.
“Teams really lose their morale once they lose a Test match in India, but they kept bouncing back and they had the desire to compete throughout. That’s why they are the number two side in the world.
“You expect that from Australia. Once they get a sniff they put you under pressure, but the way we responded, I’m really proud of that as well. I would say their relentlessness and their desire to make things happen in these conditions was probably the reason why they kept giving us a great fight to the end of this Test match. So a lot of credit goes to them.”
While Smith was obviously disappointed to have come so close in the series and fall short, he said he was proud his side was able to battle it out right up to the last two innings of the match.
“We can take a lot out of the way we played, the plans we had, but we just needed to do it a little bit longer at times and be a bit more consistent,” he said. “We’ve certainly had our opportunities to win the games of cricket against a quality opposition like India. They will get back in the game and make you pay. From that vantage it’s disappointing we haven’t been able to make the most of being in front. Having said that, I am proud of the way we have competed.
“This team has grown so quickly. We are still a very young side. It wasn’t too long ago we were at Hobart and it was the end of the world, so I’m proud of the way we have been able to turn things around and really compete in these conditions.
“Coming over here we were written off, we were going to lose 4-0, but the way we competed it has been great to be part of a fantastic series played in a good style and credit has to go to India for winning 2-1.”
Smith singled out Nathan Lyon for his performance. The spinner took 18 wickets in the series after being questioned for his efforts in Sri Lanka last year.
“Nathan Lyon, the way that he has been able to adapt and bowl the way we want him to bowl, he has got two five-wicket hauls, both in the first innings,” he said. “He was able to change things up, when guys were sweeping him he was willing to throw the fast one in to stop them and make them defend, things like that.
“It’s good that these guys are thinking about the game and finding ways to have success in these conditions. It’s been a great learning curve for all the boys in the room. They are hurting now. It’s always tough when you lose a series at the final hurdle, but the guys are going to take so much out of this series.”