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Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh has said that he felt proud to return as a winner from Australia, "something that teams which went before us could not do".

"I feel proud that we have come back as winners. We have managed to do something that teams which went to Australia before us could not do. Especially if you consider that we had a young team," Harbhajan told NDTV.

Bhajji, who was mired in one controversy or the other during the three-month-long tour, said it was "really tough" but he was happy to answer his critics and detractors with his on-field performance.

"The last three months were really tough for me but I chose to answer with my batting and bowling and not through statements," he said.

"Hats off to BCCI and the Indian public for standing by me during those tough times," he added.

Bhajji was of the view that despite the controversies on and off the field, he believed that the Aussies admired his fighting spirit.

"I firmly believe that deep down inside Australians love me - they always like a fighter," he said.

"I read somewhere that Hayden challenged Ishant to a boxing bout. But, from what I saw on the cricket field Ishant beat Hayden in that boxing match."

The 27-year-old from Jallandhar said he would not shy away from confrontation if anybody tried to intimidate him.

"No way, you can't match the Australians as far strength is concerned. But yes, if he (Hayden) managed two punches on me I would also land at least one punch on him."

Asked if he thought players like Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden were past their prime, Harbhajan said: "I don't think we can say that. They are a great team that is why it made our victory special - beating the world champs in their own backyard."

Bhajji said he was excited about playing in the Indian Premier League.

"IPL will be a huge success. I am looking forward to playing against my own team mates from the national team. Thanks to the IPL I will be able to afford my favourite car- Hummer."

He expressed his disappointment at the hockey team's failure to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, while adding that they should not lose heart and try to do well in future tournaments.

"I feel sad to see hockey in this state, but, this is not the end of the world. Even we lost in the first round of the cricket world cup but then came back to win Twenty20 and in Australia," he said.
 
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