Player exodus will test India - Ponting
Barring a few months in the middle of 2005, it is India v Australia that's been the marquee series this decade and Anil Kumble felt India would continue to be the best challengers to Australia's supremacy. Starting with the sensational series back in 2001, the overall tally stands at 6-5 to Australia's favour, a scoreline which no other team has even remotely approached.
"We probably play our best cricket against Australia," said Kumble after an eventful series, "and we play them not too far from now, in September this year. We've been travelling well for the last four or five years and done well everywhere. You have a few people who might not be a part of the Test squad in a couple of years but there is a lot of talent there, as this series has shown. Our young bowlers have done well and this experience will stand them in good stead."
Ricky Ponting, while admitting that India were the second-best side in the world, felt the biggest test would come when their senior players retire. "Even though they're the No.2 ranked team in the world, they're going to lose 4-5 of their top players pretty soon," he said. "They're going to go through a phase that we've gone through over the last few months. It will be interesting to see how they back up from that. They are No.2 but will be rebuilding soon. I'm happy the way we've gone through the phase but it's all ahead of India. So time will tell."
Having lost four of their top players last season [Justin Langer, Damien Martyn, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath], Australia watched Adam Gilchrist walk away here. Ponting, though, felt there was enough ammunition in the domestic tank to keep the side going. "We've got enough talent to maintain our No.1 ranking. We've done a lot of work over a period of time and are a fair bit ahead of the next team. Test cricket is about big moments and we've won those through the summer. How we do from here on will determine how good a group we are.
"We've coped well with the loss of four players last summer and now we've lost one more. Our cricket this summer has been terrific, especially the way we've covered for these guys. Nobody can say they're not impressed with [Phil] Jaques or [Mitchell] Johnson. Sri Lanka and India are very good Test teams and we've played very well to beat them."
The scoreline could have been different had India's batsmen hung on for eight minutes in the final stages in Sydney and Kumble looked back at the pivotal moment. "We came pretty close in Sydney and I really hoped we had batted for seven or eight minutes (sic.) to get a draw in Sydney. But the Aussies played really well and credit should be given to them. Having said that I'm proud of the way we played. In the last five years, India are the only team to have competed with them so well.
"We didn't come with our full strength bowling line-up and lost Zaheer Khan mid-way. Looking back I think the young fast bowling unit responded brilliantly. Ishant Sharma was probably the find of the series - he's 19 and this was his first series in Australia. He impressed with both his aggression and attitude, troubling every batsman who came in."
The series was marred by the controversial Test in Sydney but Kumble felt it was a something both teams managed to put behind. "We always had a good relationship and it was one of those moments in Sydney. I look at it as a hurdle from where we moved on."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo