If ending a hectic Test-match season that followed a long Covid-induced break with a series win against England wasn’t a reason enough to celebrate, qualifying for the World Test Championship (WTC) final with the win in the last Test on Saturday was the icing on the cake. Naturally, R. Ashwin, who was adjudged Player of the Series for his all-round performance, was ecstatic.

“The WTC qualification is the result of the work we’ve put in over the last 10 years. The WTC was announced and we obviously really fought hard. We played six series and we’ve literally got most of the points. We have lost just three of the Tests in the cycle,” Ashwin said after India thumped England by an innings and 125 runs at Motera.

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“It means a lot to a lot of them in the dressing room. Some of them have not even played a World Cup, so it will mean like the CWC to them. I’m so very happy for someone like Ishant Sharma, who got selected in the 2015 World Cup but couldn’t play because of a last-minute injury. For someone like him to get to the WTC final would mean the world. I was reading somewhere that he called it the World Cup final for himself, so it makes absolute sense.”

With a whopping tally of 32 wickets and 189 runs, including a hundred, Ashwin’s performance was one of the talking points of the series. But when asked about the highlight, instead of individuals, he chose the team’s comeback after losing the series-opener last month.

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“The way we wrested back the initiative in the second Test in Chennai was the highlight. It’s very easy being one-nil down. You can tend to want to protect your own backyard, want to play to the potential that everyone expects you to play at. All these things are spoken from outside, but what we have done well in the last six months is stay in the moment, try to play the game as we see it, play what’s in front of us and also try to play some brave cricket instead of wanting to protect our thing,” he said.

“The way we came back in the second Test as a group, we found ourselves in some sticky situations in all these Tests, and every time somebody has managed to stand up. That’s related to how we have managed to bond as a team.”