The International Cricket Council (ICC) presented the ICC Test Championship Mace to India captain Virat Kohli at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town after the end of the third and final T20 International against South Africa on Saturday.
On behalf of the ICC, ICC Cricket Hall of Famers Sunil Gavaskar and Graeme Pollock of South Africa made the presentation immediately after the awards ceremony for the T20I series.
India ensured the number one spot on the ICC Test Team Rankings and a prize of US$1 million after their victory in the third and final Test at Johannesburg against South Africa on January 27.
The win meant that no team can move ahead of India in the Test rankings at the 3 April cut-off date.
The 63-run win at the Wanderers ensured that South Africa cannot move ahead of India in the ICC Test Team Rankings at the 3 April cut-off date, even if they go on to win all four Tests against Australia in March.
India had arrived in South Africa on 124 points, with South Africa 13 points behind on 111 points. However, Kohli's men will return on 121 points as opposed to South Africa's 115 points, which will be good enough for them to keep possession of the prestigious ICC Test Championship mace for the second year in succession at the April cut-off.
India won the prize for a second year running and have now been at the top of the rankings since October 2016. They have also been at the top two times before under Kohli – in January-February 2016 and in August 2016.
India’s longest stint at the No 1 position was from November 2009 to August 2011, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the captain.
The other captains to have received the mace are Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith (all Australia), Andrew Strauss (England), Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla (both South Africa) and Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan).
“It’s truly a great feeling to hold the ICC Test Championship mace again, which is an acknowledgement of our success in the truest format of the game," Kohli said.
“We’re proud of the way we have performed in Test matches over the past couple of years and our performances have reflected in the rankings. The quality of a side is judged in the way players step up when needed, and that is what our boys have done time and again."
Kohli said it has been challenging to succeed across formats and hoped his team will continue to set the bar high in future.
“It is heartening to be at the top of the Test rankings in an era when it’s challenging to do consistently well across formats. But that is something that we have managed fairly well and something that I’d like my team to continue doing with their hard work and determination," he said.
“I’d like to thank all players who have been part of our squads during this period and also the support staff for contributing to our success and for helping out in different aspects of the game. I’d also like to thank all our fans for supporting us across the globe.”
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson congratulated India, saying: “India has been simply outstanding in Test cricket over the last twelve months and I’d like to congratulate Virat and his team for retaining the Mace. They have produced some memorable moments that will go down in Test match history.
“They are certainly deserving of their number one ranking doing so much to attract fans around the world to Test cricket with their entertaining and attacking style of play and great quality of cricket.”
Former India skipper Gavaskar said it was a moment of pride for him and wished the team luck for future assignment.
“It’s really nice to be handing over the ICC Test Championship mace once again to the Indian captain. It’s really a huge achievement to do well continuously in Test cricket and Virat should be a really proud man to have led his side to such success in this format," he said.
“Test cricket always tests the class of players and to be acknowledged as the best in the format by the game’s world governing body is really a moment of great pride. Congratulations to Virat and the boys for this accomplishment and wish them all the best for the future.”
Former Test batsman Pollock also congratulated the team:
“It’s a privilege to be part of this occasion. I’d like to congratulate the Indian team for their consistent performances in Test cricket and Virat for leading the team to continued success," he said.
“It’s a big achievement to become the best in any field and it’s even more difficult to remain at the top. Virat and his boys have done that and deserve every bit of praise in this regard. This shows their fortitude and I am sure they are destined for more success. I wish them all the best for the coming years.”