Andy Flower: This is only the start for our new era under captain Alastair Cook
England coach praises Pietersen, Anderson and his skipper after epic series triumph
England have the small matter of two Twenty20 matches to negotiate before this tour of India is done. It is a very small matter indeed. The games in Pune and Mumbai tomorrow and Saturday will barely form a footnote to the epic deeds that have been enacted in the last month.
A weighty tome could be written about the Test series in which England prevailed by 2-1 and there would be an asterisk by the last full stop on the last page. Alongside the denoted spot at the page bottom it would say: "England also played two T20 matches."
To have defeated India in a Test series at any time would be a historic achievement. Only three England teams in 13 previous attempts had managed it and India have had some moderate sides themselves over the years.
But England arrived in the subcontinent after a turbulent year. They had been weak on the field, losing two of four Test series to Pakistan and South Africa, and had been shaken to the core off it by the crisis surrounding their biggest star, Kevin Pietersen.
The continued weakness against spin bowling and the hangover of the Pietersen saga threatened to make a tough tour tougher and a drawn series seemed to be the absolute limit of their potential. When they lost the first Test that option was sharply revised downwards.
But in the nick of time everything came good again. It was as if the Pietersen kerfuffle never happened – he was sporting a T-shirt with all his colleagues' names on it on Monday evening to show how much he admires them – and somehow, even less probably, the batsmen learned how to combat slow bowling.
Andy Flower, the England coach, reflected with understandable satisfaction on a memorable triumph. It seems he was kidding nobody, least of all himself, when he stuck by them after the nine-wicket shellacking in Ahmedabad.
"Remember I work closely with these guys and I see them in training every day," he said. "I did mean what I said because I did believe they had improved themselves as players of spin. I knew some of the work they were doing and we knew the quality of our spin bowlers – even though we didn't play one of them in the first Test – so I did believe we could win out here.
"Also, we played poorly in the first half of our first innings and we recovered well thereafter and that was evidence we could score runs if, as [Alastair] Cook did in the second innings, we applied a certain method in the conditions.
"He applied that method and that gave people evidence that runs could be scored. That was important."
Pietersen was re-absorbed (the buzz word is of course "reintegrated") into the side as if he had never left it. Indeed, it seemed to be more than a new beginning, it was as if he and the others were forgetting not only the behaviour of the past year but the past seven years. The probationary period in which his central contract lasted only for the winter is now at an end.
"The contract won't be a problem," said Flower. "Kevin has been excellent in every way. We don't all always get on with people all of the time, any of us in any walk of life, and everyone has made an effort to make it work.
"It's been really good fun and he should be very proud of the way he's operated out here both as an individual and as a player."
There is a willingness and determination to bury the past. Things were said and done then that should not have been and it is to be hoped that the wounds inflicted were so deep and the recovery so painful that nobody would want to go through it again.
"We did move on from it as soon as we had our meetings and everyone made a commitment to do so," said Flower. "I want to continue that moving forward. We want to learn from the past but we don't want to keep on revisiting it.
"He will have a little break over Christmas, like a lot of the guys, and he'll be back for the one-day series."
If Cook was rightly man of the series for batting which epitomised his leadership, Flower felt compelled to single out one of his bowlers.
It was neither Graeme Swann, the series' leading wicket-taker who was outstanding, nor Monty Panesar, who altered the balance dramatically when he was belatedly included after the selectorial blunder, born of who knows what, that saw him astonishingly left out of the first Test.
It was Jimmy Anderson, the most formidable swing bowler in the world. Anderson took his craft to a new and mesmerising level here. You could not take your eyes off him in Kolkata and on a flat deck in Nagpur he prised out three of India's top four with abundant skill and cunning.
"I must make special mention of Jimmy," Flower said. "He has been outstanding. I know he didn't take a wicket in that first Test but thereafter the strength, skill and courage he showed as the leader of our attack was outstanding. He deserves every bit of praise that comes his way."
Still, it was Cook's tour in the end, in way that would have made Thomas of that ilk proud. He did what he had to as an opening batsman, he grew as a vastly inexperienced captain.
"He's been superb as a leader," said Flower. "One of the most important things that I've observed during this series is that tactically he's been learning all the time. He's been watching the opposition and the tactics they employ when he's had a chance to do that and I think he's shown more nous out here than some foreign sides that come to these shores and don't adapt quickly or decisively enough. He's done that and I think that he's gained a lot of confidence.
"That early captaincy experience he had in Bangladesh was a really useful start for him and he's growing in confidence all the time.
"He's always been his own man, even as a young man he could say no to people, I know that from our relationship at Essex, he's always had that confidence to do that. And I think he's going to be an excellent leader for England. We're very lucky to follow a bloke of [Andrew] Strauss's quality with Cook. It's a good start."
Note that Flower ended his appraisal with a hint of caution. It is his way because the next challenge, not the last one, is the most important.
He has left for home to leave the T20 squad in the hands of Richard Halsall. But he had a final influence.
Joe Root, who made his Test debut in the final match, has been added as batting cover. And the series of five 50-over matches which begins in the new year will now not contain either Jonathan Trott or Anderson. Their bodies and minds are being given a break. Jos Buttler, the Somerset batsman and wicketkeeper, and Chris Woakes, the Warwickshire all-rounder, have been called up.
It may make the task of winning a one-day series still more arduous. But it may not. England should not spend their Christmas break worrying about it. As Flower, a man not given to overstatement, said: "We all know to come back from one-down in these conditions to win a series is a hell of an achievement." England will now play two Twenty20 matches.
Stats magic: Series in numbers
2004 Last time India lost a Test series at home before the defeat to England
49.42 The batting average of both Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen
5 Tests won by England in 2012. They won two series (West Indies and India), drew one (Sri Lanka) and lost one (South Africa)
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