Amid a raging debate whether India or South Africa are possible successors to Australia, Sourav Ganguly on Thursday day said it would be "a bit too early" to rank Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men as world's number one team as it still needs to prove itself overseas.
The former captain said India has a very good team but the "real test" would come when they play well abroad where the conditions are different.
Asked specifically whether India could be the number one team after Australia's decline, Ganguly said, "To say that India would be number one, I think it's a bit too early. Look at the ICC points rankings, Australia, although they have not played good cricket for the last 3-4 months, they are still a few points away from the rest.
"India has a very good team but I believe this team's real test would be overseas, when India go to New Zealand and when they start travelling abroad. If you look at the last year, India has played a lot of cricket at home," Ganguly told NDTV.
Ganguly, who retired from international cricket after the series against Australia in November, said it would be difficult for India to replace great players like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid when they decide to retire.
"It will take a lot of time to replace the Tendulkars, Dravids, Kumbles and Laxmans. It has taken a period of time for what they have achieved," said Ganguly who ended his career with a Test aggregate of 7212 in 113 matches for an average of 42.17.
Ganguly said that there is plenty of talent in India but the younger players who replace these stalwarts should be given a longer rope to establish themselves.
"One must also realise that when people like [Sunil] Gavaskar and [Dilip] Vengsarkar went, the Dravids, Tendulkars and Gangulys came. So there will be replacements. In India, there is so much talent. But it will happen only with time. The young players should be given time to establish themselves and become match-winners," he said.
Asked whether India has a better team and an all-round attack compared to South Africa, Ganguly said, "I would not say that at that stage, to be honest. If you look at South Africa's performance in the last nine series, they have not dropped a series. It's been all round the world. They have beaten Australia in Australia, they went to England and beat them convincingly."
On the government's decision to call off India's cricket tour of Pakistan, the former captain said it is the right decision under the circumstances.
"In the current situation, best thing is to withdraw from cricket. After what happened in Mumbai and from TV and other reports, there is lot to it than what I see. From that point of view, going to Pakistan at this stage will not be right and the government has done the right thing," he said.
Only a week back, Tendulkar had also backed the government's decision to scrap the tour saying the Mumbai tragedy was far bigger than any cricket tour or sports. India were scheduled to play three Test, five one-dayers and a Twenty20 match during their month-long tour to Pakistan but a diplomatic stand-off following the terror attacks in Mumbai led to the cancellation of the series.
Ganguly is also impressed with the long strides the system in Indian cricket has taken towards progress and improvement. But at the same time he attributed the change to the huge money, which cricket administrators had at their disposal to bring about changes.
"To be honest, system has improved quite a lot. That's bound to happen. Things are bound to happen. Things progress. Indian cricket has had the luck to have money to run cricket.
"You can see that some of the stadiums which have been built, some of the facilities which are being provided to the Test playing centres. We last played a Test in Nagpur and that is a fabulous venue for Test cricket," he said.
However, the former skipper said Indian cricket was able to produce the champions even when a supportive system was not in place for players.
"The facilities being provided to the modern day cricketers were not the same when we started our careers in 1996. Even our predecessors started without these facilities.
"No system can be perfect. But Indian cricket has done well irrespective of the system. Sunil Gavaskar came in when we had no system. Kapil [Dev] came in when we did not have facilities to produce fast bowlers.
"But the system has gone from stronger to stronger," he said.