It was a series we all went to win but unfortunately, we could not. We knew that with just one practice game, our preparation was never going to be ideal and the challenges leading up to the first Test would be huge. And they were. But after the huge disappointment of the first game at Melbourne, the way we came back in Sydney, followed by how things panned out in Perth and Adelaide, was exceptional.
<b1>If you look back, it was just that last half an hour or so in Sydney that things fell to pieces, otherwise, we would have levelled the series. It is never easy to come back in a four-Test series after losing the first two games, so looking back therefore the huge disappointment was really the Sydney loss. The high point of the series was obviously Perth, very, very special. Nobody gave us a prayer and to win there, after all that had happened and on a wicket that we were never expected to survive on, was an unbelievable experience.
Going into Adelaide, we were trying to keep that momentum going and think positively, which is why it was important that we thought of playing five bowlers on a wicket we knew would be flat.
Winning the toss was important, which we did and we also went on to post a huge score. I was happy at the end of Day Two but then RP Singh's injury brought us down and back to four bowlers. To make matters worse, I picked up a mild strain and was not able to give 100 per cent.
It's never easy to get Australia out once, forget twice, and once we were a bowler short on that wicket, the script was pretty much written, barring something unexpected. The heartening part for us though, was the way the Australians batted, slowly, cautiously, very un-Australia like. I don't think any of us have seen them bat the way they did. It just showed how worried they were and how much on the defensive.
Anyway, the tour is done and dusted with, what will stand out was how, right through the series, the people who stood out (especially in batting) and gave us a chance were the people who had done it before. Experience counts for a lot. Especially when you tour teams like Australia and play against them, it is essential to have previous knowledge of situations and how to construct an innings. This was evident in the superb way Sachin and Laxman batted. And although Rahul seemed a bit out of touch at the start, he fought back really well. Sourav played his part too and it all counted in the end.
The bowlers did very well too, especially after Zaheer missed out and they shouldered the additional responsibility with enthusiasm. For me, what stood out here was how 19-year-old Ishant came out and bowled the way he did, over after over, match after match. It was brilliant. He troubled everyone on every wicket, with the new ball, with the old.
There is a lot of Test cricket up ahead this year and it's important to make sure everyone stays fit. We have a nice set of fast bowlers now, so maybe it's important to look at rotating them. Coming back to the series, given all the drama, it was essential to keep all that was happening separate from the cricket. That was my focus.
It was important that whenever a match was being played, these issues never sprung up, even discussion-wise. That was my responsibility. I insisted that any discussions on the things unrelated to the game stay out of the dressing room. If we had to play good cricket, it had to happen this way. I knew the challenges would be really tough and I think, looking back, we've been able to tackle them in the best way possible. There would have been a lot more satisfaction if the result had been better.
Last trip Down Under
At a personal level, this was my last trip to Australia and it was nice for me to come back with happy memories of the cricket at least and do well enough as an individual player, getting to a milestone.
Moving forward, the next couple of months will be a good break for me. For more reasons than just the regular ones, this series has been far more tiring than usual. With getting older, the recovery process takes that much more time and I'm not too sure how much my body will handle.
On a final note, the one-dayers will be tough on Sachin, on whom the burden of leading a charge will fall yet again. The younger lot will really have to step up if they have to do well in the shorter version. I'm confident they will. All the best to them.