Dec 31 (Reuters) - India might have lost the brief test series in South Africa but the experience garnered from two tough tests against the top-ranked team will serve them in good stead in tough away campaigns to come over the next year, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said on Tuesday.
As they departed for home after losing the series 1-0, a relatively inexperienced side were also lauded for their potential by former captains Rahul Dravid and Ravi Shastri.
It was India's first test series since the retirement of the great Sachin Tendulkar, who hung up his bat last month, and a first overseas test series in two years since they lost 4-0 in Australia between December 2011 and January 2012.
"If you look at the overall series, I think it was fantastic," Dhoni told reporters.
"A testing one for us because before leaving India, not many of our top order batsmen had played tests outside of India so overall it was a good experience for all of them playing against a top side," said Dhoni after the second test defeat in Durban on Monday which followed the drama of the high-scoring drawn first match in Johannesburg.
"I was happy with our performance," the skipper added. "When you consider how much experience South Africa have, we have learnt a lot from these two games. The new players learnt that test games are about the full five days of cricket and every single one of the sessions has the potential to have a big impact on the whole game itself."
India's inexperienced top order proved competitive under a barrage of hostile bowling on green-top wickets alien to condition in India, providing much more resistance than pre-tour predictions had forecast.
Among the leading performers were Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, who enhanced their credentials with the bat, while Cheteshwar Pujara was the top scorer in the two-test series with 280 runs in his four innings.
Dravid and Shastri, acting as television analysts, said the potential shown by India's batsmen augured well for the future.
"They can go home feeling they can achieved much even if they lost," said Dravid, while Shastri told television viewers many positive lessons had been absorbed and would come in useful when India play away in New Zealand, England and Australia over the next 12 months.
India next play in New Zealand, starting with five one-day internationals from Jan. 19-31 and two tests in February. Later in 2014 they have a five test series in England and four in Australia. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson, Editing by Ed Osmond; firstname.lastname@example.org +27828257807 Messaging email@example.com)