New Delhi: The spring was back in their stride and the Tricolour was fluttering again as Team India came out of a hiding to register their first overseas win after sixteen straight defeats dating back to the England tour last August. They beat Australia in a T20.
A brimming Duncan Fletcher shed his Poker face as the half-centurion Gautam Gambhir hit the winning runs in front of 70,000-strong crowd at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to bring a temporary relief to India's misery. A good-natured handshake with MS Dhoni followed as the Indian duo walked off, knowing the win is at best a breather.
But what painted a pleasing picture was India's approach – it was full of beans.
The visitors would have loved to bat first but when asked to bowl, they didn't flinch or give an inch. Praveen set the trap right this time, catching two early victims but what rang a bell was India's fielding, producing not one or two but four run-outs.
There was a palpable intent among Indian fielders as the bowlers steamed in. And for the first time perhaps an Indian was named Man of the Match for his fielding – Ravindra Jadeja, who effected two of those run-outs, led a superb display by India on the field.
In hindsight, fielding is the best judge of a team's hunger and India played like one hurt by a string of losses. There was a distinct change in the body language that has been ridiculed since the overseas losing streak began in England last year. Right from Gambhir back-paddling to take a catch at square leg to Raina executing the fourth run-out to take the last Australian wicket, the Indians were on top of the Aussies, who never recovered from the early blows.
Success in the field rubbed off to the Indian bats. Annoyingly short of runs, Gambhir and Sehwag finally got going with a 43-run stand, which was followed by a 54-run partnership between Gambhir and Virat Kohli and an unbeaten 38-run one between Gambhir and MS Dhoni – a clear indicator why India won here and have lost everything else until now in Australia. No partnerships were to be seen in the Test series, which was in striking contrast with Australia who were churning out century stands and subsequently big wins at will.
Gambhir's act of carrying his bat through the chase made the difference – an effort on the lines of knocks played by Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke to whitewash India in the Test series.
If one wants to learn, there are lessons aplenty to learn from this win, but that India chose not to play Irfan Pathan in this match still leaves a question mark about the rigidity of the Indian think-tank on this tour. Performance in the tri-series will provide better answers to that and the World Champions' approach towards redemption.