They started the tri-series amid controversy over Harbhajan Singh's alleged misdemeneanours, and the dropping of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. They have no hope, the doubters said — not without the seniors, not against Australia and Sri Lanka.
So, after the victory lap and champagne celebrations were done, it was Mahendra Singh Dhoni's turn to give some of it back. He kept the focus largely on the Australian media, and to their Harbhajan Singh fixation.
"It was getting a bit too much…," Dhoni said. "Every day, there was something new in the papers (about Harbhajan). It didn't matter when some player, even Australians, did something good. It was all about Harbhajan, as if he was Michael Jackson. Who'll they write about once we leave?... Maybe when I go back to India I will surf the net to find what they are doing in the absence of Harbhajan."
The six-wicket drubbing in Sydney on Sunday and the loss in Brisbane on Tuesday ensured Australia haven't won the CB Series trophy for two consecutive years now. The tri-series — for long an integral part of the Oz experience — is now over forever, and India, with their first major tournament victory here since 1985, will be the permanent holders.
When he spoke, Dhoni held little back — but was as firm and as calm as ever. To the rest of the world, he sounded a warning: "There are youngsters in this team who are aggressive. You have to be careful while dealing with them. If you are harsh with them, you'll get it back."
Dhoni's men are going back with answers to many of the questions troubling Indian cricket for some time now. The toughest battlefield has produced a bunch of warriors who will hopefully inspire dreams, not wistful thoughts of past glory and opportunities lost.