An injury-ravaged India's 2-1 triumph in Australia under a stand-in captain will go down as one of the greatest series ever played, coach Ravi Shastri said on Tuesday.
India were bundled down for a record low of 36 in Adelaide and regular skipper Virat Kohli left a demoralised team behind him as he returned home to attend the birth of his daughter.
Under Ajinkya Rahane, India levelled the series in Melbourne and drew in Sydney but had lost their entire frontline bowling attack to injuries by the time they arrived in Brisbane.
Washington Sundar and T Natarajan, retained as net bowlers, made their test debut, helping India pull off a series victory for the ages after prevailing by three wickets in the decider.
"I'm not someone who really has tears in my eyes but I had real tears because this is unreal," Shastri said.
"The penny has still not dropped, and it will take a long time to drop. Unreal."
Playing his first series, opener Shubman Gill laid the foundation for India's chase with a classy 91 and number three batsman Cheteshwar Pujara took several blows on his body and helmet during his obdurate 56.
Rishabh Pant then smashed an unbeaten 89 to complete a memorable series victory for the tourists.
"What these guys have pulled off will go down in history as one of the greatest series ever played," Shastri said.
"When you take the COVID situation and the spate of injuries into account, showing stomach for a fight after being bowled out for 36 is unimaginable."
The challenges of living in a bio-secure bubble and the spate of injuries made it the toughest tour he could remember, said the former test player.
"This is the toughest tour ever. We're playing in COVID times, quarantine times and with the multiple injuries - nothing comes close. It surpasses all."
Rahane inspired India's comeback with a captain's century in Melbourne and the Mumbaikar was his modest best after the win.
"I was emotional too. I still don't know what happened and don't know how to describe this," said Rahane, who gifted a signed India jersey to Australia's Nathan Lyon on the spinner's 100th test after the match.
Pant's blistering 97 helped the tourists draw the third test in Sydney and his whirlwind knock in Brisbane fashioned their three-wicket victory at the Gabba.
"It's been a dream series," the Delhi player, who did a victory lap of the stadium carrying an Indian flag, said after collecting the man-of-the-match award.
"After not playing the first test, I practised hard and everything paid off as we won the series.
"The team management always backs me and tells me 'you are a match winner and you always have to go and win the match for the team'.
"That's the only thing I keep on thinking every day - that I want to win matches for India, and I'm happy that I did it today."
Head coach Ravi Shastri said Pant was too good a talent to be ignored, especially on away tours.
"We play him in overseas matches because he's a match winner, and he showed us exactly why during this series," said Shastri.
"When he makes some errors in keeping, people start criticising him. But the way that he batted today, he wins matches for us.
"In fact, the way he was batting in Sydney, he would have won the game for us by staying at the wicket for another hour. I think his performance has been exceptional."