Coming to India is always exciting. The crowds here are so fanatical that it takes the competition to another level. There is nothing like playing in front of passionate followers and the extent of their knowledge of cricket has always astonished me.
It was no different in Baroda during the first ODI. The atmosphere was daunting, with anything that the Indians did receiving thunderous applause.
The noise that Baroda fans generated can be unnerving but since we have been touring India often of late, we knew what to expect. For it is not just noise we have to take into account, there is also the manner in which any Australian boundary or Indian wicket is met with dead silence that can put off someone who is here for the first time. Australian crowds are not very dissimilar in terms of the noise-making factor but they do reserve some of it for the opposition too!
Coming to the match, as we set forth for the seven-match tour — a length I am comfortable with — we were aware it wasn’t going to be easy. We were expecting the Indians to fight till the end and so it was.
Harbhajan Singh has had his share of run-ins with us but he once again showed what a competitor he is. Once we had Dhoni and Jadeja out, we thought we had the game in our bag but he never gave up. That's why we have a lot of respect for Harbhajan, this is how we play the game too.
As far as my own innings, sometimes it happens to be your day. It is important to note that there had been some good partnerships prior to my coming in and thus all I needed to do was build on them. Ricky and Paine were wonderful in the way they set the innings up and it felt good to be able to finish with a flourish.
Our bowlers backed up nicely and until the Harbhajan-Praveen stand, we were in control. The inability to use Brett Lee for his full quota of overs — until the time of writing I was not sure what exactly the problem was — could have cost us. His ability to reverse swing and bowl lethal yorkers was much needed and it was a big loss for us. A thing we Australians pride ourselves on is that someone always step up. On Sunday it was Peter Siddle. He's a quality bowler and a great asset to the team. Overall, the opening game seems to have set the tempo for the rest of the series. Our biggest challenge is to come to India and play against the Indians and with the imminent return of Yuvraj Singh the challenge is only going to get bigger. These are two evenly matched teams, so watch out for more great competition.