It was in Melbourne that India started this tour with loads of disappointment. The only first-class match before the Test series was badly affected by rain, they were outplayed in the first Test inside four days and then in the precursor to the tri-series, were hammered out of the park in the Twenty20 international.
On Monday afternoon, the Indian team strode out of Australia's sporting capital heads held high after inflicting a rare defeat on the world champions and creating a strong chance of making the finals of the tri-series.
Ahead of Australia and Sri Lanka on points before Tuesday’s match against the losing World Cup finalists, every member of the team was moving around with an air of confidence. They were highly sought after on arrival to the political capital and local newsmen turned up in numbers to capture every mood of the advent.
Echoing that confidence, Harbhajan Singh said his team was not worried about history. “It’s been a long time since the World Cup. We know who our opponents here are, have played against them a lot of times to know what their strengths are. We also know that if we play to our strengths, we will give ourselves a good chance to beat every team.”
He refused to accept that India would enjoy some momentum after beating Australia. “I don’t believe in that sort of talk. What I do believe is that every game is a new game and every team will have to start afresh. Having said that, the team we have can beat anybody.”
Call it confidence or an overdose of it, Harbhajan even said the Indians were not overtly worried about
“We handled him pretty well in Brisbane after he took two wickets in his first over. (Gautam) Gambhir and (M.S.) Dhoni took a lot of runs off him. That he went for over 50 runs in 10 overs shows that he did not trouble us. In a one-day match, that’s a lot of runs.”
Encouraged by booing
A prominent feature of this series ever after the ‘monkey business’ post-Sydney, has been the barracking that Harbhajan has faced at every Australian venue. The moment he comes into bat or bowl, the crowd gets after him and starts booing. On Monday, the media got the first chance to ask him about it and the off-spinner said he was taking it in his stride.
“I enjoy it because it proves there are more people in the crowd who know me. It encourages me as well. The more they do it, the better I will get. You can say that it inspires me do play better.”
Under pressure from several quarters, for different reasons, this Indian team is trying to make a statement. Whatever Harbhajan said was an indication of that. If the victory in Melbourne and its aftermath is any indication, there is ammunition for some more fireworks. After that, whatever will be will be.