Former India skipper Rahul Dravid on Tuesday lauded Mahendra Singh Dhoni`s men for their ‘brilliant’ title triumph in the Champions Trophy, saying ‘right balance’ and ‘fantastic’ fielding helped them claim the prestigious title in England.
India enjoyed an undefeated run in the tournament as they clinched the title with a five-run victory over England in the rain-reduced final on Sunday.
"They were the best team. They didn`t panic in crucial situations, they won the critical moments towards the end of both the innings. India`s batting, to get them to 130, the partnership between Kohli and Jadeja and also bowling towards the end. So India were the better team on the day as well," Dravid told `ESPNcricinfo`.
"I think the great thing that India had in this squad is balance. The conditions in England surprised us, I mean look at how much the ball spun, so because of the nature of wicket, it helped India play seven batsman with (Ravindra) Jadeja at number seven and actually five frontline bowlers. In the past, India didn`t have that luxury...They played brilliantly," he added.
The 40-year-old former cricketer also lauded India`s fielding during the eight-nation one-day tournament, which was held for the last time.
"India were brilliant on the field. It is not often that you can say that India were the best fielding side in the competition. They were fantastic. You can see the energy on the field. They played well," Dravid said.
"Credit to the selectors. Sometimes we tend to forget them in times like this. But I think they have done a very good job. Lots of people felt the squad was light on experience but they have been proved right. They went with energy, they went for young legs and for people who had lot to prove," he added.
The Champions Trophy triumph will give a big boost to India for the next World Cup in 2015 but Dravid didn`t want to look too far ahead.
He said it would be important for India to get the right balance depending on the conditions in Australia.
"It is dangerous to look too far ahead. I mean, who would have thought that after India won the World Cup in 2011, two years down the line, we will play with only three of those players who were in that squad. So it is like a complete new team. So it is dangerous to look that far ahead," Dravid said.
Stressing on the need of a fast bowling all-rounder, Dravid hoped that Irfan Pathan can fill up that position in the team in another two years` time.
"That`s (fast bowling all-rounder) been India`s problem. since Kapil Dev and to some extent Manoj Prabhakar, we have not been able to get a fast bowling all-rounder ... It would be terrific to explore that option. Irfan (Pathan) is the one in the squad right now and may be in a year and a half`s time, he will discover his mojo and be the guy for India," he said.
"In these conditions, Jadeja was the man for India and it might work in Australia as well by the way he is bowling but from the balance perspective, it would be nice to have that option. If conditions do dictate, you can go with a fast bowling all-rounder," Dravid added.
India will be touring South Africa for a bilateral series in November and Dravid said it would be a tougher challenge.
"It is going be a different test. In ranking, we are number one in ODIs but in Tests were are number four or five, we are behind South Africa, who are the number one side, so it would be a completely different challenge, much tougher challenge, especially if Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are fit," he said.
"To win in South Africa, India need to get 20 wickets and to find four bowlers who will get those 20 wickets is going to be the key. India will have odd bad innings but with their batting line up that they will take, they will score runs in one or two innings but will they have the bowling to knock over South Africa quickly enough is going to be the question," Dravid added.
Dravid, however, said things are looking up for India in the fast bowling department.
"The heartening thing for India is Umesh Yadav looked good in this tournament. With a little bit of workload, he will be in much better shape in South Africa, Ishant Sharma also is bowling well and Bhuvneshwar Kumar also swung the ball, so there are a couple of positives to build on there and hopefully these guys can stay fit and keep improving by the time South Africa series comes."
Asked if he would like to see any particular bowler in the South African squad, Dravid said a fit Zaheer Khan would prove to be priceless for India during the series.
"Zaheer Khan, if he can get himself to be fit. At his best, Zaheer is priceless. But selectors have to be tough with him and ensure that he is in the best shape and then take him. If he can get to his peak fitness, I would like to have him in South Africa," he said.
"He has got experience and skill, he has done it before. But he has to get some bowling behind him, I would like him to play substantial amount of four-day cricket before he is even considered for South Africa."