India captain Rahul Dravid was a delighted man after the huge 152-run victory over Sri Lanka in the first one-day international at Nagpur on Tuesday.
"I am very happy to start the series with such a big victory. It was a good team effort, but there is still a long way to go," Dravid told reporters at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium.
Batting first, India piled a huge score of 350 for 6 in their 50 overs, and then bowled out the visitors for 198 in just 35.4 overs.
For India, the match marked a return to international cricket for star batsman Sachin Tendulkar, after a gap of six months. The champion batsman announced his arrival with a classy knock of 93. His 164-run second-wicket partnership with Irfan Pathan, who scored 83, set the tone for India's huge total. He, however, fell short of his 39th ODI century when he was caught behind by wicketkeeper Kumara Sangakkar off pacer Fervez Maharoof.
This was the second time that the Mumbai batsman fell in the nervous nineties at Nagpur, the earlier instance being against South Africa in 1999-00, also on 93.
Speaking after the match, Dravid revealed that it was Tendulkar's suggestion to send in Pathan at number 3 and surprise the Sri Lankans.
"It was Tendulkar's idea to promote Pathan, which we discussed with coach Greg Chappell and then eventually decided to try it," he said.
Pathan, usually known for his left-arm swing bowling, set the stadium alight in the morning with a blazing knock of 83. His 70-ball essay, which included eight boundaries and four sixes, had the Sri Lankans running for cover, and even off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan seemed clueless.
Dravid said the decision to promote Pathan was based on the theory of utilizing the first 15-20 overs to the maximum and thus take the pressure off the middle order against the Sri Lankan spinners.
Asked whether Pathan could be India's Andrew Flintoff, he replied: "Pathan is a bowler who can bat. Let's not get carried away and call him an all-rounder. His primary job is to bowl; that's what we need to understand."
Dravid also said Tendulkar's knock showed much he was missed by the Indian team in the last few months.
"Just the presence of him [Tendulkar] in the dressing room makes a huge difference. He played a fantastic knock today and it's good to have him back."
Tendulkar played his first international match since the series against Pakistan in April, after which he was ruled out due to an elbow injury.
"It looked like he was playing for the last six months," the Indian captain added.
He also praised Kerala fast bowler S Sreesanth, who took 2 for 39 on his debut in one-day internationals.
"Sreesanth bowled well. It's not easy to bowl in these conditions against batsmen like Sanath Jayasuriya," Dravid said.
Dravid also praised the Nagpur wicket, saying the ball came on to the bat nicely.
"It spun a bit later on, but, overall, it was a good wicket to bat on."
For his quickfire 85, off 63 balls, and inspirational captaincy, the Karnataka batsman was named man of the match.
His master-stroke came after the 10th over, when he opted against using the second Powerplay in a bid to slow the run rate which eventually accounted for the quick dismissals of Sanath Jayasuriya (27) and Kumara Sangakkara (43) and turned the match India's way.
"We tried to slow the game by not using the Powerplay. We were hoping that either Jayasuriya or Sangakkara makes a mistake, but we were lucky to get both the wickets. Then Harbhajan Singh and Muraki Karthik bowled well in the next 10 overs to seal the game for us," he said.
India's total of 350 for 6 is the highest by any team at Nagpur, beating New Zealand's 348 for 8 against India in 1995-96.
This was India's fifth victory at the venue in 10 matches, while Sri Lanka suffered their third loss in as many matches.