RANCHI: India captain Virat Kohli was effusive in his praise for Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha's record 199-run stand, saying that it was the "best" partnership he has ever seen.
Pujara (202) and Saha (117) steered India to 603 for nine against Australia and gave the team a substantial 152-run lead in the third Test, which eventually ended in a draw.
"KL Rahul (67) and Murali Vijay (82) batted beautifully but the partnership between Pujara and Saha is the best I have seen," said Kohli at the post match presentation ceremony.
"We never thought we would be able to take 150-run lead. Then yesterday two wickets fell and we thought we had a good chance. But credit to the two Australian batsmen (Shaun) Marsh and Peter Handscomb (for their 124-run stand for the fifth wicket and saving the match), they batted really well," he added.
Kohli said that his team got itself into a very good position where they could have enforced a victory.
"We got ourselves into a very good position," said Kohli.
"Losing the toss here was never easy. Not being able to take the field (due to injury) was never easy for me and then watching the opposition get big runs was difficult. But we batted beautifully."
Applauding his players' desire to stand up and be counted, Kohli said: "Guys want to push the barrier, their physical limits, their mental toughness. Credit to Australia for playing out the draw, but we played ourselves into a position where we could have won."
Heaping praises on both Pujara and Saha, the skipper said: "When you play only one format, you are always extra determined to make it count. Pujara is very motivated, and he is really good at Test batting. This is the best I have watched him bat.
"Saha did it in West Indies, he did it in Calcutta as well, and here under pressure, he really stood up. You feel happy for him because he is such a wonderful guy. Always smiling, always happy for whoever achieves anything."
Jadeja also came in for a special mention from the India captain.
"Jadeja is unbelievable. I have never seen anyone bowl so economically for so long ever. He knows his limitations and sticks to it."
Kohli said that the team would continue to do what it has been doing in the fourth and final Test at Dharamsala.
"Dharamsala, no different from what I have done here. We have given our best here, and as long as we keep doing that, I am sure we will get ourselves into winning positions," he said.
Australia skipper Steven Smith termed Marsh and Handscomb's match saving partnership as 'resilient'.
"A pretty good Test. Proud of the way the boys stuck it out. That's what we want to be...resilient. They played beautifully today. They didn't look like they would get out for a while. It was crucial for us, at such an important time. It was important to score big first-innings runs, we left ourselves a bit short there. 450 was not enough to win this match," said Smith.
On Glenn Maxwell and Pat Cummins, both of whom made their comebacks in this Test and contributed significantly, Smith said he was proud of them.
"Maxwell was sensational. That's the way we want him to play. Pat Cummins, in his first game in a very long time, he bowled beautifully. Not too often you spend 210 overs in the field. It was a long two days. The boys really dug deep. I am really proud," he said.
Smith said his team was looking forward to Dharamsala.
"Massive game in Dharamsala, can't wait to get there," he said.
Man of the match Pujara said he never thought that he would play out as many as 525 deliveries, which he faced during his double-century knock.
"When Wriddhi (Saha) came in, we had a chat we needed a big partnership. I never thought I would play so many balls, but once I was in I knew I had to bat long to reach close to their total. I do get tempted to hit in the air, but you have to look at the bigger picture. There was a situation when we couldn't afford to lose another wicket, so I had to restrict myself," he explained.
Pujara also said that his and Saha's partnership was "much-needed for the team".
"They scored 450, to come back, go past that total, and put them under such pressure was great. But Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb batted really well," he said.
Pujara, who spent more than 11 hours in the field, said he has been working hard on his fitness.
"You get fatigued, but I have been working hard on my fitness, careful with my diet, and hoping to recover soon for the big Test coming up," concluded Pujara.