Sourav Ganguly had hardly slept last night, and he might hardly sleep tonight. At the breakfast table this morning, he looked bleary and tense, the unkemptness of his appearance accentuated by a ritual of not shaving during a Test match. At the post-match press conference, he wore a vacant look, of disappointment and frustration. He has always been a disapprover of the moral victory theory, and he wasn't claiming one here. One-one wasn't good enough for him, he had expected to win.
"We are disappointed," he said, not taking away from Australia's effort in saving the Test, "we could have bowled better."
He was fulsome in his praise for Anil Kumble, who took 12 wickets in the match to register his best figures in a Test abroad. "Anil was outstanding," he said, "He gave it his all. But we couldn't keep up the pressure from the other end."
He wouldn't issue a public condemnation of Murali Kartik, who put up an improved performance in the second innings and could have had Ricky Ponting stumped and was denied a close lbw shout against Damien Martyn. "Kartik was playing a Test after a long time, but he is a much better bowler than how he performed today. I'd say that our other bowlers didn't perform to their ability today. And the pitch didn't deteriorate that much."
In a sense, Ganguly's disappointment was an indication of how much the team has travelled in the last six weeks. India were barely given a chance to draw a Test when they arrived here, and the fact that they took a Test off Australia, and dominated the last one should have been enough for a captain to assume high moral ground. But when asked if his team's performance had exceeded expectations, Ganguly replied bluntly that it depended on whose expectations was in question. "We knew what we could do. We came here knowing we could compete." The vital difference between this team and the ones that that toured before is belief and ambition. Ganguly was not a captain easily sated.
But he will allow himself to call the tour a successful one. "Considering the way Australia have played over the last few years and the fact that we came here with a young team, it was quite special the way the team has played."
And he was in no hurry to push Australia off the perch. "They are still the number one team in the world. You can't just say that they aren't because of one series. Our team has progressed well in the last couple of years. To play well abroad was one of the areas in which we needed to improve and we have done that in the last one-and-a-half years."
When asked to quantify the progress, Ganguly put it down to the quality and ability of the players. More importantly, he said, it was a team. "We play like a team."
He was quick to stand up for Parthiv Patel, who missed stumping Ponting when he was on 15 to add to several such missed chances earlier. "Parthiv is a young boy," he said, "he has missed a few chances here. But he kept well to spinners in India where it is more difficult. He is the future. We need to keep faith in players like him."
Sambit Bal, the editor of Wisden Asia Cricket magazine and Wisden Cricinfo in India, will be following the Indian team throughout this Test series.