Overdue win, unusual method
Finally. After 10 Tests (eight lost, two drawn), four ODIs and two T20Is. India have finally won an international on the road. It is just a Twenty20, but try telling India that. This was a win they desperately needed. You need to actually win to reassure yourself you can win. Losing can be self-perpetuating. And you start to wonder where that elusive win will come from. You start blaming luck, you start blaming pitches, you start hating the crowds, you start detesting the press, but until you finally are the second captain asked to come for the post-match interview, you find yourself in that rut.
The interesting part is - it was a completely un-Indian win. It happened in the field. It was a complete transformation from - forget the Tests - the first T20 in Sydney. It was as if a magic switch had been flicked on. India were on tonight. There were direct hits, there were diving saves, there were people backing throws up, there was the MS Dhoni stumping without any reverse follow-through, there were clever bowling changes, there was an impetus on getting wickets to slow runs down. It was like it was all coming back to someone who had lost his memory in the first half of a Bollywood film. Simple things but somehow forgotten.
Dhoni called this the best fielding side he has played with. He said before the start of the limited-overs leg of the tour that the young fielders will bring a different energy to the team, and the turnaround finally came through the fielding. It was led by Ravindra Jadeja, a man much hated by Indian fans, always the fall guy, until he was dropped in 2010. He missed the 2011 World Cup too. He came back in England, and was one of the shining lights on the tour where India didn't win a single game.
Tonight Jadeja bowled three overs for 16 runs, but his fielding played a bigger part in his ending up as Man of the Match. Yes, it can happen in India too. George Bailey, Australia's captain, wasn't surprised India fielded well. He was actually surprised India didn't field that well in the first T20. Jadeja said they were hampered by the rain a bit in Sydney, but tonight's conditions were perfect.
"Everybody badly wanted to register the first win," Jadeja said. "In the Tests we lost 4-0, so everybody was desperate to start winning. We were all positive today, the energy was good. Everybody did well in his own department. Gautam [Gambhir] too played till the end."
Jadeja said that when he joined the team after the Tests, the dressing room didn't look a gloomy one, as you would expect after a whitewash. He said the seven young players who flew in from India brought in a lot of energy. "Test cricket and one-day cricket are different," he said. "All the boys who came with me were very positive. To make sure we don't repeat what happened in the Tests. We all did well, the wicket was good, and because everybody was able to give 100% we won."
Jadeja said the win will bring a positive change. "The ODIs will be played on the same grounds," he said, "so we know what to expect, what we need to do mentally."
India will know this win means a lot, but will also know it might end up meaning nothing if they can't turn this little win into bigger wins. Looking back at the tour, people will look at tonight's performance either as just a T20 win or a big turning point of what has so far been an abysmal trip. There is a long way to go to make it the latter.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo