Perth: Struggling to digest the defeat India rammed down the hosts' throat in the third Test, a section of the Australian media on Sunday reacted with dented pride and hurt ego as it sought to pick holes in the visitors' emphatic win.
Stung after Anil Kumble and his comrades-in-arms halted the Australian juggernaut, denying them a record 17th straight Tests win, the media here cried foul, blaming the defeat to India's financial clout and the game's "weak-kneed" governing body.
"India's stunning performance in the third Test at the WACA should be dedicated to a lot more than the 11 players out on the field," a whining report in the Courier Mail said.
"They should share their pay cheques with their bullying officials back home, the weak-kneed administrators at the International Cricket Council and certain members of the media who have taken every opportunity to put the knife into the Aussies since this series began," Mike Colman wrote in the daily.
The barrage of criticism after the acrimonious Sydney Test had forced Ricky Ponting and his teammates to discard their ruthlessness and the rather civilised approach to the game never really worked for them, he said.
"Remember that scene in one of the Rocky movies where Rocky's trainer tells him he's no longer feared by his opponents? 'Kid,' he says, 'the worst thing that could happen to a fighter happened to you. You got civilised.'"
"In the space of a week the Australians got civilised...So instead of a confident, arrogant, winning team, we get a nice, civilised one. Maybe a losing one," it rued.
"The way the ICC backed down to financial clout of the Indian heavies, the way the Australian authorities panicked over the effect of bad publicity on sponsorship dollars and success of the anti-Ponting campaign stirred up by a former England B captain who now calls Australia home, all combined to back the team into a corner," the Courier Mail said.
The Daily Telegraph, however, struck a more balanced note as it doffed its hat at the Indians, while ruing the end of Australia's golden run. It said the Perth defeat was a hint that Australia couldn't take its pole position for granted.
"Welcome to the future, Australian cricket fans. Welcome to a world where your team will remain among the best sides in the world but will have to work like drover's dogs to subdue their closest rivals, particularly away from home," it said.
"We have seen the end of a golden era and will have to get used to the occasional silver and bronze medal against teams ready to answer our best sledges.
"The fortress was attacked in Sydney and the barricades finally fell in Perth," the report read.
"The most challenging era of Ricky Ponting's captaincy starts this morning," it said, adding the team was yet to fill the void created by the retirement of a bunch of star players.
"The post Warne-McGrath adjustment that had to happen has finally kicked in. We have learned that Phil Jaques is not Justin Langer, that Shaun Tait is not yet Jason Gillespie, that Shane Warne is irreplaceable and that if you take Matthew Hayden out of the team it hurts everywhere."
The daily was gracious enough to heap praise on Kumble and his team. "Even as Australia despairs, world cricket is rejoicing at the discovery of a team who not only do not fear Australia but actually fancy their chances against them. No praise is high enough for an India side whose entire pace attack is younger than Tait," it said.
"Australia is being threatened by a new breed of Indian, whose confidence was embodied by a gesture from young quick Irfan Pathan yesterday, when he held his hand up to his ear to the crowd after taking the ninth wicket," the report added.
The Age shared the sentiment and sensed a hint of decline for the hosts in the defeat.
"Australia's winning streak has been stopped, and its invincibility - and that of its skipper - a bit shaken," it said.
"Suddenly, Ricky Ponting's Midas touch has become a thick outside edge. Suddenly, he has become a little susceptible in all his cricketing endeavours. Suddenly, the game has become to him as Ishant Sharma was yesterday, unexpectedly vexatious and in the end, too much," it said.
"Somehow, three Indian quicks who are all younger than Australia's youngest and had never set foot in Perth previously, exploited the local conditions better than the Australians. This as much as the result will exercise Australian minds; it hints at decline," the report said.
A nostalgic Sydney Morning Herald recalled how at the same WACA ground, he hosts had reclaimed the Ashes last summer.
"A golden run has ended," it rued.
"For the second time, India halted an Australian Test winning sequence at 16 games. While superior batting proved the key in Kolkata in 2001, it was the Indians' mastery of swing bowling that proved the major difference in Perth." it noted.
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