Before the Sydney Test, Glenn McGrath gave his typical prediction that Australia would win the series 4-0. Few people truly expected it to happen. But such has been the gulf between the two sides that four weeks later, Australia wrapped up a whitewash within 59 minutes on the last day at Adelaide Oval, the only Test in the series that India managed to take to a fifth day.
Australia's 298-run victory was finalised when Nathan Lyon found the edge of Umesh Yadav's bat and Brad Haddin gloved the ball cleanly, which led to celebrations from the Australians. Not wild celebrations, though. The restrained type of self-congratulation that follows a long period of work, with the knowledge that even more toil remains ahead.
That the 4-0 series win was not enough to lift Australia out of fourth position on the ICC rankings is an indication of how far the side had fallen, and how much work remains for Michael Clarke and his men. But they are the on the way up. Their next Test tour is to the West Indies in April, and there they can move up the rankings list, closer to their goal of regaining the No.1 spot.
For India, this was the culmination of a miserable year away from home. They remain in third spot on the rankings, but only just. They began the day at 6 for 166, with no hope of chasing the target of 500 or batting all day to play out the draw. The first wicket came when Ishant Sharma edged behind off Ryan Harris for 2, and that was closely followed by Wriddhiman Saha (3) also edging behind off Peter Siddle.
R Ashwin and Zaheer Khan stole a few boundaries but it was only ever a question of which bowlers would get the wickets. Zaheer skied a catch off Ben Hilfenhaus for 15 and the final wicket came when Yadav edged behind with the total on 201. That gave Lyon 4 for 63, an encouraging end to a series in which he was the least effective of Australia's four main bowlers, against batsmen adept at handling spin.
Harris ended up with 3 for 41 but it was appropriate that all four frontline bowlers, including Man of the Match Siddle, picked up at least one wicket. It has been their constant pressure throughout the summer that has kept India's powerful batting line-up in check. Significantly, it was not until the final Test of the series that India found a centurion, and then it was the newest member of the top six, Virat Kohli.
VVS Laxman averaged 19.37 for the series, Virender Sehwag averaged 24.75, Rahul Dravid 24.25, Gautam Gambhir 22.62, MS Dhoni 20.40 and Sachin Tendulkar 35.87. None of them scored as many runs as Kohli, whose 300 came at 37.50, and such results should encourage the selectors to give more opportunities to fresh batsmen.
The Indian bowlers were also below-par. Zaheer finished with 15 wickets at 31.80, a decent result and an indication that he keeps working hard even in trying circumstances, and Yadav showed promise with his 14 wickets at 39.35. But Ishant's five wickets at 90.20, Ashwin's nine victims at 62.77, and the folly of picking Vinay Kumar at the WACA all stood out as disappointments.
Hilfenhaus and Siddle headed the Australian attack throughout the series, and they were wonderful. Clarke and Ricky Ponting were outstanding with the bat. It was a complete display from an Australian unit that heading in the right direction. And a squad that can always look back on this 4-0 result with pride.