Wellington:Outplayed by India in their first Test series loss at home in 41 years, New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori on Tuesday said the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side is the best in the world along with Australia and South Africa.
"India obviously outplayed us in all departments (in the Third Test). Apart from our first day when we had them at 200 for6, from then on in it's been India's game," he said after the third Test ended in a draw to give India 1-0 triumph in the three-match series.
"I think you can throw Australia, south Africa and India and there is the three best teams in the world, and it's hard to distinguish between the three at the moment," he added alluding to India's current strength.
Vettori, however, rejected suggestions that he committed a mistake by asking India to bat after winning the toss.
"I still look back and say you'll take 200 for 6 any day. I don't have any regrets about the logic of the decision. I suppose you want a better result at the end of day but to have an Indian batting line up at 200 for 6 on a good wicket justified the decision," he said.
"We just didn't quite get our plans right in that later part (after India's 200/6). We bowled too short to the Indian tail and they got away from us. We didn't take opportunities that were there, and against good sides if we don't do that you will struggle," Vettori reasoned.
He refused to say anything on the debate as to whether India delayed their second innings declaration in the third Test, saying that the visitors might have thought they had enough time to bowl the opposition out.
"Rain is forecast about everyday we have played this summer. So you can understand it, they weren't sure whether it would rain or not. They dominated the Test, so they have the prerogative to make the declaration any time they wanted.
"If it would have been us, we would have declared earlier because of the nature of our attack. We would have needed more time. But their bowlers were fresh and they bowled us out in 65 overs in the first innings, so they backed themselves to do that again," he reasoned.
The left-arm spinner rued the lack of consistency in the series but tried to take the positives.
"I suppose we have been inconsistent. You see periods we can be a good team, but we are not delivering it often enough.
That is seen throughout the series. But we have only lost one Test. People have to remember we dominated the Test in Napier.
"There have been couple of pleasing aspects, the fight that Ross Taylor and James Franklin showed to give us even a chance of saving the game. Jesse Ryder's performance throughout the summer, Taylor had a couple of hundreds and Chris Martin was fantastic with the ball," he added.
Vettori was not happy with his performance with the ball but satisfied with his effort with the willow.
"I am pleased with the way I went with the bat but didn't take as many wickets as I like. As a spinner, or as any bowler, all you can try to do is create chances, and if you create chances you are happy with it. Still the results as a bowler haven't been as good as I would have liked."
The Kiwi captain said his side will have to improve a lot to rise higher in the ICC rankings.
"We have a long way to go as a Test side. We are number eight in world, and we have got to get off that as soon as possible. We haven't won a Test in a while, and we just have to improve in all departments. There is talent in the team, but we are not justifying the talent with the results. We have to improve our consistency as a side.
"I haven't seen the schedule, how much Test cricket we have. We want some improvement, obviously get off the foot of ICC table, get somewhere in middle of rankings. If we can get to four or fifth in next 24 months, that will be great."
On pacer Chris Martin, who made a comeback in the series, Vettori said he should maintain peak fitness.
"If we can prevent him from signing any county contracts, we will keep pushing him to stay around a little longer. He is 34 now hopefully he can continue like a Glenn McGrath till 37-38 and he deserves 200 Test wickets. His performance in this series has been fantastic. He has proved himself against a quality side."