Centuries from batsmen Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell comfortably secured a draw in the fourth Test in Nagpur and with it a 2-1 series win in conditions that have tormented England for a quarter of a century.
The tourists’ fabled troubles looked set to continue when India won the first match by nine wickets, but Cook’s leadership and exemplary batting inspired an emphatic response and a place in cricket folklore.
Opener Cook shared in the first Ashes series win in Australia for 24 years, but ranks becoming only the fourth England team to beat India on their own soil alongside that watershed 2010-11 achievement.
“It is a very special day, a special tour,” said the left-hander, who hit 562 over the four matches.
“I think it is on a par with the Ashes. As an Englishman, winning in Australia after so long meant a huge amount. But to be in that that dressing room there [yesterday] for that last half an hour knowing what we had achieved was a very special place and it will live long in my memory.”
Cook pinpointed the second innings of the first Test, when he scored 176, as the moment that he felt the pressure of succeeding Andrew Strauss lift and believed England could mount an unlikely comeback.
“You want to prove the captaincy is not a burden. To do it straight away is a big monkey off your back,” he added. “After that second innings in Ahmedabad we thought: ‘Yes, we can score runs out here’.”
Defeat was India’s first in a home Test series since 2004 against Australia, while former England skipper Michael Vaughan called it “the hardest place of all to win”.
It will perhaps be remembered as a series in which England finally found success against spin, with Kevin Pietersen, Bell and Trott also hitting vital centuries.
“They’ve really done themselves their country proud,” said head coach Andy Flower. “They’ve learnt how to play spin a lot better, they’ve learnt how to take 20 wickets in these conditions and they’ve learnt how to be resilient in foreign conditions.”
562 Runs scored by Alastair Cook in the series
12 Wickets taken by James Anderson during the series