Skipper Virat Kohli hailed Hardik Pandya's game-changing performance Sunday after the all-rounder powered India to a 26-run win over Australia in the rain-hit first one-day international.
Pandya smashed a 66-ball 83 and claimed two wickets to give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the five-match series at Chennai's MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Chasing a revised target of 164 in 21 overs after rain delays, Australia were frustrated by wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav who shared five wickets between them. The tourists ended on 9-137.
But it was Pandya's gritty 118-run sixth-wicket stand with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who made 79, that lifted India from a top-order collapse to 281-7 in 50 overs.
"He (Hardik) believes in himself. That is the key in international cricket. Hardik's innings was the game-changer. He is smart with the ball as well," said Kohli.
"He possesses all three skills (batting, bowling and fielding) equally and we are lucky to have him," Kohli added.
In reply, the visitors had to wait for two hours to start their shortened chase as constant drizzle threatened to spoil the contest.
Pacemen Jasprit Bumrah and Pandya combined to hurt Australia's hopes of reaching a tricky target with three early strikes including skipper Steve Smith for one.
Bumrah bowled debutant opener Hilton Cartwright for one. He then took a stunning high catch at short fine-leg to send Smith trudging back to the pavilion off Pandya.
Left-arm wrist spinner Yadav also joined the party after getting star opener David Warner caught behind for 25 as Australia's innings fell apart.
"I think 160 with one new ball would have made things a lot easier. When you have two new balls from both ends, as we saw throughout the game it was a new-ball wicket," Smith told reporters.
"They found it hard. Was the same for us. When you are playing 20 overs you don't have great deal of time to make things up...it was difficult in that aspect," he added.
Glenn Maxwell tried to raise Australia's hopes with his 18-ball 39, including three fours and four sixes, but Chahal cut short the batsman's blitz.
Leg-spinner Chahal ended with three wickets in his five overs. Pandya and Yadav took two each.
Earlier Australian fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile had made an impact with three wickets including the prized scalp of Virat Kohli for nought.
Coulter-Nile, who returned after a string of injuries that kept him out since June 2016, put India in early trouble at 3-11.
Rohit Sharma, who made 28, and Kedar Jadhav, who scored 40, tried to rebuild with their 53-run partnership before Marcus Stoinis sent the two batsmen back in the pavilion.
Dhoni, who has captained the successful Chennai franchise in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, then made his innings count along with Pandya for company.
"We weren't able to capitalise on a good start. MS and Hardik played very well. Their partnership certainly changed the game, proved to be match-winning," Smith said.
"We started very well with the new ball and that's a positive for us ... and today we bowled to the conditions and got the ball in the right areas," he added.
The duo thwarted the Australian bowling with some stubborn batting before Pandya let loose to take the attack to the opposition.
Pandya took a special liking to Adam Zampa's leg-spin as he smashed the bowler for a four and three successive sixes in an over to bring up his third ODI fifty.
Zampa though did get Pandya out for his only wicket in the innings. But the bowler's 10 overs cost his side 66 runs.
Dhoni soon took over to blast some vital runs in the last five overs as he added 72 runs with number-eight Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who finished unbeaten on 32.
The two teams now head to Kolkata's iconic Eden Gardens for the second ODI on Thursday.
Australia's Qantas Tour of India
Australia ODI squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.
Australia T20 squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner, Jason Behrendorff, Dan Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa.
India squad (first three ODIs): Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.
September 17: MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
September 21: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
September 24: Holkar Cricket Stadium, Indore
September 28: M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru
October 1: VCA Stadium, Nagpur
October 7: JSCA International Stadium, Ranchi
October 10: Barsapara Stadium, Guwahati
October 13: Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad