Three giants collide as battle for top spot hots up

Ricky Ponting, Graeme Smith and MS Dhoni, three men with one new year resolution, to take their team to the top of the ICC Test rankings.
"I think the balance of power is evening out in world cricket. Credit to Australia they have dominated world cricket for decade or so and they obviously enjoyed their time and it doesn't mean they are going to be beaten in future tours or going to be easy to beat," said Graeme Smith after South Africa clinched the three-Test series 2-0 against Ponting's men.
Australia are much like a wounded tiger, losing two out of the last three series in 2008 has been a hard blow for a proud cricketing outfit. If another loss comes in the new year Test at Sydney, their crown will pass on.
"International sport and life is all about ups and downs, this year for us had been an indifferent one but its been a learning curve and a learning year for us all. Even me who has played nearly 130 tests, you learn something from every game that you play," stated Ponting.
They will learn, but to the keen eye the gap hasn't just narrowed between Australia and the rest, the men from down under are left to play catch-up.
"We have seen the end of the last men standing; the Haydens, the Symonds and probably Brett Lee too. They need to find some new people. India and South Africa are the two stand-out sides," opined former player and cricket writer Peter Roebuck.
But even in the gloom of the decline, the man at the helm of Aussie cricket holds out hope.
"I'm still very positive and very sure that with some of these younger guys coming through and coming on in a few years time that we can get back up there and be dominating world cricket once again," said Ponting.
So 2009 will be the story of this three-horse race and cricket fans will be looking forward to the ride.