A "shocked" Ricky Ponting is struggling to comprehend how India's "A team" overwhelmed Australia in the Test series in their own backyard. Hit by a spate injuries, India competed without many a key players, yet downed Australia by three wickets in the series-deciding fourth Test at the Gabba, a month after the Adelaide debacle where they scored their lowest Test score of 36.
"I'm quite shocked that Australia weren't quite good enough to win this series. The cold hard facts of it are pretty much that was the India A team that played this Test match and still won," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"Considering everything the Indian team has been through in the last five or six weeks, with the captain leaving, all the injuries they've had – they've been through 20 players – (Australia) have been at full-strength, bar Davey (Warner) missing early on, so it's really hard to comprehend.
"It's probably not even (India's) second-picked team because you think of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma and those guys who didn't even make it out here. Rohit Sharma turns up for the last two Test matches only."
Ponting said India won all the key moments throughout the series and that was the difference between the two sides.
"They've played really good, tough, hard Test match cricket day-in and day-out. India have won all the big moments in every Test match and Australia have fallen short. That's been the difference between the two teams."
"They (India) have done it really well and they thoroughly deserve to win the series... because (of) how resilient they've been."
"We gave Australia the benefit of doubt the last time India were here because Warner and (Steve) Smith weren't there. But this time, Australia's at full strength and India are on the bones of their squad—they're playing net bowlers in Test matches and they're still winning. That's the worry for Australia.
"We're probably digging deeper than even an Indian A team and they've still been good enough to win two Test matches here in Australia, and good enough to win one in Brisbane, which just doesn't happen," Ponting said.
Former captain Michael Clarke also criticised Australia's "negative" approach. Clarke, however, refused to blame team leader Tim Paine for the unthinkable Test series defeat at home. An injury-ravaged India beat Australia by three wickets in the final game in Brisbane on Tuesday to win the series 2-1 and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
"I thought we might have been a tad negative at certain stages throughout because we were scared to lose versus attack hard and look to win the game," Clarke said on Big Sports Breakfast.
Under Paine, Australia have competed in 23 Tests and have managed to win only 11 of them. Two Test series defeats at home against India make his record look worse. Paine, who took over from Steve Smith in 2018 after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, is copping criticism for not only the 1-2 defeat but also for his sloppy work behind the stumps.
However, Clarke said it was the negative mindset that pegged Australia back. "At the end of the day, whether we lost with 20 overs left in the game or on the last ball of the game, it didn't matter. We had to win that game to win that trophy.
"I sort of feel we should have approached the first ball of that game to the last ball of that game with a bit more of that attitude."
Clarke said there was a time when the buck stopped with the captain but it should not be the case anymore since there are other professionals, who call the shots in the Australian set up.
"When I played cricket, when I grew up watching my father... the captain was accountable in the teams I played in. Through that transition of me captaining Australia, that changed.
"There had become a chairman of selectors that had more pull, there had become a high performance manager that had more pull, there had become a head coach who had more pull," he said.
"So now, who is driving the bus? This is my point."
Former pacer Brett Lee too jumped to Paine's defence.
"I think since he's taken over the captaincy he's shown real good leadership qualities," Lee told foxsports.com.au.
"And look, there's been a lot written about Tim Paine behind the stumps. He's grassed a few chances, but who hasn't? You look at all the keepers in history and I'm sure there would be plenty who had leaner periods behind the stumps.
"With the bat, you can't fault him. He goes along with Marnus Labuschagne as having one of the best techniques in the team. He stood up and took on the Indian players."
Lee said he does not find anything wrong with Paine captaincy style.
"His captaincy has been really good. As I said, in Sydney there were maybe a few other things he could have tried, but put yourself in that situation — he's under the pump, he's had a few players go down as well, there's chances (gone begging) when they're trying to take those last five wickets," he said.
"(He's a) brilliant keeper, his batting has been outstanding, and his captaincy really sound."