'India represent the future, Aus the past'
Australia's cricket glory days are over and the team must face up to a tougher future, leading commentators said on Saturday after India's euphoric one-day series win over the world champions.
India's 2-0 tri-series finals win over Ricky Ponting's aging team has triggered an inquest into Australia's performance and fears the axis of global cricket supremacy had finally shifted.
Australia are now only fractionally in front of South Africa on the International Cricket Council rankings as the world's leading one-day nation after losing the best-of-three finals.
And with the retirement of wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist, after last year's departure of bowling greats Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, there is a sense the era of Australian domination is over.
One commentator noted that Australia, with an average age of 33, were confronted and affronted by a younger version of themselves in Mahendra Singh Dhoni's confident Indian team.
"If Ricky Ponting had ever wondered what tomorrow would look like, now he knows. It is staring Australian cricket, and its leader, in the face. The era of domination that it seemed might never end is over. The future has arrived," The Age's Tim Lane said.
"Australia will continue to have the measure of most. The days are gone, though, of endless, predictable crushings of mismatched opponents," he added.
The Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Roebuck said India's economic boom has released a new sort of cricketer -- tough, independent, materialistic and confident.
"Suddenly, India seemed to represent the future, Australia the past. Australia were confronted and affronted by a younger version of themselves.
"Australia have always had a strong and democratic cricketing culture. India used to depend on players steeped in the ethics and traditions of the game. Not any more."
Much has been made in the local media about the fall-out from the Australian team's racism charge against controversial Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh for abusing Andrew Symonds during the second Sydney Test in January.
Harbhajan was banned for three matches but the suspension was later overturned following an appeal hearing.
The relations between the two sides deteriorated as senior Australian batsman Matthew Hayden called Harbhajan an "obnoxious weed" on radio during the subsequent one-day series.
Roebuck said Australia was distracted by the row and also by the lucrative IPL, which starts next month, blaming Ponting for the loss of focus.
"Australia played like a team weighed down by worry. It was a long season full of incidents and speculation about IPL (Indian Premier League) and (whether to tour) Pakistan," Roebuck wrote.
"Whatever the right and wrongs of the Sydney Test, the Australians lost their equanimity and never recovered.
"The Australians allowed Harbhajan to get under their skin. It was a mistake, and the captain was responsible. Ponting had a poor summer. His form dipped and he allowed his side to become overheated."
The Australian newspaper also attacked Symonds, urging him to curb his "big mouth."
"Symonds' big mouth either on the field or in print has been a significant cause of grief and embarrassment for Australian cricket in recent months," it said.
"It would be a great relief to everyone if he let his at times spectacular batting and fielding do the talking."