India's Test side has not played so badly since 1999-2000 when a whitewash in Australia was followed by a 2-0 home series loss to South Africa. But this defeat to England is not the lowest point MS Dhoni has sunk to as an international cricketer.

After two whitewashes in England and Australia, India have now lost a Test series at home, their last piece of pride in Test cricket, but Dhoni said he has seen worse.

"It has been tough," Dhoni said after the draw in Nagpur that gave the series to England, "But there are not many things that will come close to when we lost the 2007 50-over World Cup. This is not even close to that."

This, he said, was a rebuilding stage. "We are going through a tough time, we are going through a stage where we will have to see what will work for us," Dhoni said. "A few big players for us have left us. Youngsters coming up will have to fill the gap, and seniors will have to take extra responsibility till the juniors start getting runs or start taking wickets."

The quality of spinners coming through has been a big concern. Dhoni said he wouldn't want to judge somebody like Piyush Chawla - who has been averaging 40 and upwards in first-class cricket for the last three years - based on just one match. "It's very difficult if you assess a youngster based on one performance," Dhoni said. "You have to see how they go once they play a few games. They will get the exposure. Not to forget Piyush came after five years so he will feel the nerves. It wasn't a fantastic wicket for him to bowl.

"There was no pace. It's very difficult to deceive the batsman with his wrong'un or the legbreaks. You have to analyse everything. Just don't see the stats - so many overs, so many maidens, so many runs, wicket column empty - and think you have bowled badly. We have seen you get wickets off full tosses or caught at point through a cut. We need to analyse honestly to see if the batsman or the bowler is doing well. It's not only the runs that say the batsman is batting well or five wickets in the bowler's case."

Dhoni spoke of the importance of backing the youngsters. "What you need to see is if you don't give youngsters chances how do you know whether they are good enough or not?" Dhoni said. "You won't get all of them scoring big hundreds in their first game. Some of the big players, they started off with even four or five zeros.

"You have to back youngsters who you think are very talented. Who you think can succeed at the top level. Even if they don't score in a few games, it is important to back them. It's about trying them and giving them a chance to prove themselves. Scoring runs in domestic cricket is not a certain sign they will score at the top level but you have to back them so you know with proper exposure at first-class level and proper backing at international level, at some time they will start scoring."

Dhoni said the batting and pace bowling was the difference between the two sides in this series. "In this series the batting was the department that was lacking," he said. "In the sense we needed to score more runs. Mumbai was a tough wicket, but apart from that we were not able to get into big partnerships.

"In cricket it's not about who is scoring how many runs. It's about between two individuals how big the partnership is. We were not really able to have those big partnerships that can have the big impact, especially when playing in subcontinent."

Dhoni praised Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann, who outbowled his spinners, but he said James Anderson was crucial. "Anderson bowled very well throughout the series on wickets that there was no help for the fast bowler," he said. "That was crucial. He tested the batsmen all the time. In his second or third spell when he started to get reverse and yet the ball was slightly on the harder side. The major difference between the two sides was James Anderson who bowled really well."

Dhoni didn't give any indication about Sachin Tendulkar's future. Asked if we will see Tendulkar again, he said, "I hope so." Has he indicated anything to the captain? "No."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo