Mumbai, Oct 8: After the forgettable tour of England in the just-concluded series, Team India will face a bigger challenge when they travel to Australia in December, according to former captain Sourav Ganguly.
He said the upcoming home series against England, that starts on October 14, will not pose a threat to the reigning world champions.
"England in India would not be a challenge. It will be a bit more than what it used to be in the past, when India played England in full strength," he told reporters at a promotional event here today.
India had a disastrous July-September tour of England, where they lost the Test series 0-4 to meekly surrender their numero uno Test status to the Andrew Strauss-led team.
The reigning one-day international champions did no better in the shorter version of the game as they failed to win a single match in the rain-marred five-match ODI series.
"I think the biggest challenge that will identify (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni as a leader in world cricket is the tour of Australia. If India does well then Dhoni will be terrific. We have to wait and see (for that to happen)," Ganguly said.
He brushed aside the discussion on having a split captaincy for different formats of the game.
"It's early days to talk about split captaincy after one series loss. I don't think we should even think about it at this stage. We will have to wait and see how the team performs in Australia."
England has Andrew Strauss leading the Test side, Alistair Cook for ODIs and Stuart Broad as the Twenty20 skipper.
On Dhoni's captaincy, Ganguly said, "He has done very well for India. I am sure he is going to bounce back. He has got the important tour of Australia. Playing away from home and winning games away from home is the most important thing for a captain. It is a different ball game captaining in India and captaining overseas."
On Dhoni's request for a break, he said, "I think he deserves a break more than anybody else in Indian cricket. I understand why the selectors are not giving him a break in this series because so many senior players are injured. I am sure he will get a break because we need a mentally and physically fit Dhoni to captain India in Australia."
Dhoni had requested the selectors to rest him for the ODI series against England. The Indian skipper had admitted that his IPL team Chennai Super King's ouster from the ongoing Champions League would give him a much-needed rest before the England series.
Ganguly stressed on the need to give young pacers a chance to find a place for themselves in the team rather than putting pressure on bowling mainstay Zaheer Khan. India did not play rookie pacer Varun Aaron, who has done well in the Emerging Players series Down Under, in the ODIs during the tour of England.
"It is a good thing that the selectors have given opportunity to young fast bowlers and it will be an opportunity for them to get their places in the squad. It is important to give opportunity to youngsters, because you need to look after Zaheer Khan," he said.
Ganguly said India needs to produce a bowling attack that can do without injured pace spearhead Zaheer Khan.
"India has to learn to live a life without Zaheer Khan. He is 33 years old and just had an ankle surgery. He won't be around for a long time. In a couple of years he will be 35 years old and the selectors have to decide whether they want him for Tests, One-Days or Twenty20."
He cited Australian pacer Brett Lee's case of playing only ODIs and England allrounder Andrew Flintoff's decision of playing only the limited edition of the game before being forced to retire by his injury.
Asked whether experienced spinner Harbhajan Singh's presence would be missed in the home series against England, Ganguly said, "He will be a loss but it will be a good break for him. He will be back fully fit for the tour of Australia. I don't see India going to Australia without Harbhajan Singh."
On the recurring injuries to the Indian cricketers, he said: "Injuries will happen when you play a lot of cricket. A lot of teams are playing a lot of cricket. It is important to manage these players, so that they get rest and come back fresh for an important series."
Asked about the absence of coach Duncan Fletcher from the Irani Trophy matches, Ganguly was quick to defend the 62- year-old Zimbabwean, saying, "Fletcher has just started (as a coach), so let us give him time. I know he has had a tough tour of England. It is too early to judge Duncan Fletcher."