Brisbane: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said here Tuesday the Australian media's fascination with the behaviour of controversial spinner Harbhajan Singh inspired his team during their tour.
After an unlucky 2-1 loss in the four Test series against the Australians, the young Indian one-day side gained revenge with a 2-0 win in the tri-series finals.
Dhoni rated the triumph as greater than winning the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup last year and said criticism of Harbhajan had "galvanised" the Indians.
Harbhajan was a key figure throughout the tour as he clashed repeatedly with the Australians.
The feisty bowler escaped a three-match suspension for allegedly calling Andrew Symonds a monkey in the second Test in Sydney when the decision was overturned on appeal.
He was also involved in a war of words with Matthew Hayden during the one-dayers and was cleared of allegations he made monkey gestures and spat towards the crowd during the first final.
Speaking after Tuesday's win here to secure the tri-series title, Dhoni said the Indians rallied behind the besieged spinner.
"There was a time when it seemed like he was like Michael Jackson, the way the media were following him," Dhoni said.
"I think it would have been better if they stuck to cricket.
"He (Harbhajan) was harassed but after a while you get used to it -- it backlashed... it galvanised our team.
"It became part of life, for close to three months every day there was something.
"I don't know what will happen to the Aussie media.
"Harbhajan is going back home, so they will need someone to replace him."
Dhoni said the controversies masked the good cricket his side was generally playing.
He stood by Harbhajan, saying he had been unfairly maligned.
"People might say he might have crossed the barrier but nothing was proved against him," he said.
"From outside he looks a bit rash but you have to respect individuals.
"The more he was taken into these controversies, the more determined he was to perform.
"As skipper it's difficult to calm him down, he's an aggressive player and quite expressive on the field.
"But he's the kind of player who fights hard -- that's a quality and that's what character is all about."
While all the external focus was on Harbhajan, Dhoni was pleased that young players like Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Robin Uthappa, Piyush Chawla and Praveen Kumar were important performers in the tri-series.
He said they were the future of Indian cricket.
"This series win will give them the confidence, security and assurance that they need that they are part of the team," Dhoni said.
"Ultimately, this will be the core of the team."