'It's been a slippery dip for Australia'
Batting icon Sachin Tendulkar and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni were among the four Indian cricketers who found a place in former Australia captain Ian Chappell's '2010 World XI', which did not feature a single Aussie.
Dashing opener Virender Sehwag and pace spearhead Zaheer Khan were the other two Indians in the XI, which features five South Africans.
"Four years ago the Australian cricket team was cock-a-hoop. They'd regained the Ashes and had accentuated their superiority by smashing England at the MCG on the way to an eventual 5-0 series victory. Now the team is in tatters and it's best illustrated by a comparison of World XIs chosen at the end of the calendar year," Chappell wrote in his column for 'The Daily Telegraph'.
"In 2006, Australia had six players in the XI, with Brett Lee 12th man. In the 2010 side, no Australian made the XI and Shane Watson is the 12th man," he pointed out.
"It's been a slippery dip for Australia since the retirement of bowlers Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. The ride gathered pace when Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden called it a day. They have now hit the sand pit because of the struggles of the one player who kept the brake on the downhill ride, Ricky Ponting," he further explained.
Image: Ricky Ponting and Mitchell Johnson
'Tendulkar defied the advancing years'
Chappell described Sehwag as the most dangerous batsman in the world right now.
"A dashing opener who can win a game in the opening session of a Test. The most dangerous batsman in world cricket," he said.
Chappell lavished praise on Tendulkar, saying the 37-year-old, who recently became the first batsman to notch up 50 Test hundreds, seems to be getting better with age.
"Unlike Ponting, Tendulkar defied the advancing years and enjoyed a tremendous resurgence. He even rediscovered the art of dominating bowlers," Chappell said.
Explaining the reasons for picking Dhoni and Zaheer, Chappell said both have been consistent in their respective roles. "Dhoni has batted consistently, scoring runs when India need them and doing an adequate job with the gloves. He's a calm leader with some flair," Chappell said.
"Zaheer is a left-armer who has developed into a dangerous bowler with both the new and old ball. He performs well against good opposition," he added.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Five South African's in Chappell's '2010 World XI'
Among others who found a place in the XI were South African captain Graeme Smith, their middle-order mainstay Hashim Amla, prolific all-rounder Jacques Kallis, the aggressive AB de Villiers and tearaway pacer Dale Steyn.
"Smith is a solid opener who has the knack of making the tough runs when they're really needed. Hashim Amla is a player who really blossomed in 2010. He mastered the knack of scoring centuries and at an improved run rate," he said.
"Kallis's churned out runs with his usual efficiency, displayed a safe pair of hands and bowled with some of his old pace and fire," he added.
"De Villiers came of age. His ability to accelerate the scoring rate stood out like a beacon in a predominantly average-conscious South African team," he added.
Image: AB de Villers
Swann is most improved attacking bowler
Chappell picked England's Graeme Swann as the spinner in the XI, the pace attack of which is spearheaded by the feisty Steyn with England's Jimmy Anderson for company.
"A most improved attacking bowler who confirmed his progress with another successful year. A probing and accurate spinner.
"Dale Steyn bowls at a good pace and swings the ball away from right-handers. A proven formula for dismissing good batsmen," he said.
"Anderson swings the ball both ways at a respectable pace and has greatly improved his accuracy. Along with Steyn, he's proved the worth of swinging the new ball," he added.
Image: Graeme Swann