The Domain Test Series’ final 2-1 scoreline will suggest to retrospective analysts in years ahead that this was an evenly poised contest that went down to the final soggy days at the SCG.
The more detailed data that underpins that headline figure tells a story of far greater disparity.
For a start, India produced five centuries across four Tests, three of which came from the bat of player of the series, Cheteshwar Pujara.
The only Australia visit when India’s individual batters have been more productive was when the ‘big four’ – Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman – compiled five hundreds between them in 2003-04, and opener Virender Sehwag added a sixth.
By bleak contrast, Australia’s highest personal total came in their final completed innings at the SCG last weekend when rookie opener Marcus Harris reached 79, thereby ensuring more unwanted history.
It represents the first time in more than 130 years that an Australia batter has failed to score a ton in a home Test series of at least four matches, and even in that previously lean Ashes summer of 1882-83, Alec Bannerman came within one hefty blow of a hundred.
The fact that no Australia batter reached 80 across four Test matches against a visiting foe is unprecedented.
India’s top six accumulated 1,547 runs at an average of almost 37 apiece, compared to Australia’s 1,129 from their batting ‘engine’ room at an average return of less than 27 per contributor.
More instructive, however, is the revelation that the average time that India’s top six spent at the crease was a tick over two hours, whereas the median occupation of Australia’s best half a dozen batters in each innings was less than 83 minutes.
Extrapolate an additional 37 minutes per specialist batter, per Test and it means Australia’s bowlers - who pushed through the entire series without a frontline personnel change – had to slog through 26 more hours of toil before they could get a crack at tailenders than did their opposition.
Which, in turn, accounts in no small part for the gulf in bowling returns.
Prior to the series starting, South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis told cricket.com.au that he expected India’s best hope of forging an historic win would be if their seam bowlers stayed fit and continued to fire.
That prescience was proved by figures showing India’s premier bowlers, with the exception of seamer Umesh Yadav whose only appearance was the second Test in Perth, returned averages of below 30 runs per wicket.
For Australia, whose point of superiority was deemed pre-series to be the potency of their bowling attack, the only bowler to average less than 30 across seven completed innings was Pat Cummins (27.78).
That’s despite the home team’s specialist bowlers (excluding all-rounder Mitchell Marsh who sent down 26 overs in the third Test at Melbourne) delivering a total of 670 overs, which was marginally more than India’s first-choice attack was required to bowl.
The larger difference was the time in which the touring attack was given to recover between outings.
The fact that India became the first visiting Test team to declare in three consecutive innings in Australia also underscored the difficulty that Tim Paine’s team experienced in chiseling out their rivals.
But the statistic that reveals a contrast in philosophy rather than fortune is that India, with its finite touring party and its vastly superior world ranking, employed 16 players across the four-game series while Australia, playing at home, stuck with 13.
An inequity that flies in the face of conventional thinking that successful teams resist making alterations to a proven XI unless injury intervenes, while outfits searching for ways to improve have no option but to shuffle personnel.
In their rise to the top of Test cricket’s ratings ladder, India have shown their preparedness to ignore the ‘if it ain’t broke’ truism that has informed team selection for eons.
Only once during the four-year captaincy tenure of Virat Kohli to date – in which his team have won 25 Tests and lost just 10 – has he taken the same starting lineup into consecutive matches.
That occasion being in England last year when, having triumphed at Trent Bridge by 203 runs, India retained the same XI and duly lost at Southampton by 60 runs, to surrender the series.
“I think you need to try and keep your squad together, but have different options in your squad to be able to win Tests on different surfaces,” Paine said after the final day of the fourth Test was lost to Sydney’s rain.
“It’s ideal if you have a team where you can keep going with the same 11, but at the moment, in Australia, we probably do need to chop and change occasionally to get the best combination of players.
“I think India do that really well, and what helps with that is having great depth and they certainly have that at the moment.”
The consistent in India’s Test selection under Kohli, and now in concert with national coach Ravi Shastri, has been a source of disquiet among sections of the India media, and led Kohli to a fiery confrontation during a media conference in South Africa last year.
But the faith that the world’s top-ranked Test team has shown in players brought into the starting XI to perform specialist roles in specific conditions was highlighted in the final weeks of this series, with the scoreline 1-1 and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy up for grabs.
India installed a new opening pair – uncapped Mayank Agarwal and all-rounder Hanuma Vihari – at the MCG to great effect, with Agarwal batting with remarkable surety and Vihari’s eight from 66 balls faced rated by Kohli as one of the series’ most vital contributions.
Then, come the final game in Sydney, left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav was hustled into the team at the 11th hour when Ravi Ashwin failed a fitness test, and claimed five wickets in Australia’s sub-par first innings.
“That’s what we have done with this team,” Shastri told reporters after the match, with history and the silverware in India’s keeping.
“You see Vihari, you see (young keeper Rishabh) Pant, you see Mayank, you see Kuldeep Yadav.
“These are guys who have got opportunities this year – there is also Prithvi Shaw, who got an opportunity but unfortunately he is injured - but as many as six players have broken into the ranks.
“You don’t see that many coming through in a year in an established team that is ranked number one (in the world Test rankings, as India remain).
“We have given them the opportunities; it is up to the guys to grab it.”
Domain Test Series v India
Dec 6-10: India won by 31 runs
Dec 14-18: Australia won by 146 runs
Dec 26-30: India won by 137 runs
Jan 3-7: Match Drawn
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c, wk), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Mitch Marsh (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc
India squad: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Parthiv Patel (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar