India would have retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy with a draw in their series-deciding fourth Test against Australia, but victory remained their goal right from the start.
The tourists were forced to make four changes for the series finale after salvaging a draw in Sydney.
Their attack was decimated by the loss of spearhead Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin, who could easily have been chosen as man of the series ahead of Pat Cummins if he played the final Test.
But debutants Washington Sundar and Thangarasu Natarajan played key roles at the Gabba, while recalled paceman Shardul Thakur starred with bat and ball.
It extended a trend of India fighting back furiously in recent weeks despite an injury crisis that became more crippling with every Test.
India could be forgiven for loading their XI with batsmen for the series decider in pursuit of a draw.
But stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane and selectors put plans in place for a 2-1 series win, which they completed in stunning fashion on Tuesday.
“We knew if we wanted to win the Test and series then five bowlers would be the key,” Rahane said.
“That’s why we opted for five bowlers. Washington Sundar got that balance for us.
“Mohammed Siraj had played two Test matches, (Navdeep) Saini one, Thakur one, Natarajan also on debut. All credit to them.”
Rahane was also full of praise for Rishabh Pant’s match-winning knock.
Pant’s promotion to No.5 in the order was a clear signal of India’s intent to complete a venue-record chase of 328, rather than bat for a draw.
“Rishabh was brilliant,” he said.
“I don’t know how to describe this victory. I’m just proud of all the boys, each and every individual showed character.”
A captain’s century from Rahane at the MCG put the wheels in motion for one of Test cricket’s greatest comebacks.
The tourists lost prime movers Virat Kohli (paternity leave) and Mohammed Shami (broken arm) after being bowled out for 36 in Adelaide, India’s lowest ever total, but didn’t drop their bundle.
“After Adelaide, we didn’t discuss anything about what happened in Adelaide,” Rahane said.
“After the Adelaide Test we decided we would fight very hard, we just wanted to give our best and not think about the result.
“We just wanted to express ourselves as a team.”
India, having completed a triumph in Australia far more meritorious than their series win in 2018-19, will quickly shift attention to a home Test series against England.