India's new run-machines Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. (Getty Images)
Invincibles, Dhoni's Dabangs, Dada's Army, Fab Three - what's the connection? Let's put these into perspective: The 'Invincibles' tag may have to wait tad longer, but 'Dhoni's Dabangs' seem to have left 'Dada's Army' of 2003 behind, and leading the way are gen-next 'Fab Three'.
In less than a year, the world champions have bagged six ODI trophies - back to back. And the feat's been achieved not as 'Lions at Home' but across four continents. That, once again, throws up this: Is this India's best ever ODI team?
A 3-2 win over England was followed by the Champions Trophy success in England, making Dhoni the only captain to have lifted all three ICC trophies - World Twenty20 (2007) and World Cup (2011) being the other two. A flight to the Caribbean followed, where a tri-series win over West Indies and Sri Lanka completed India's hat-trick of ODI triumphs.
The Indian caravan then nailed its tents in Zimbabwe. Dhoni rested back home, watching his boys pummel the minnows 5-0. Trophy No. 5 came against Australia in a runathon that saw over 2500 runs scored in five completed ODIs of a seven-match series, which India won 3-2 in the decider. West Indies then arrived for a hastily-arranged tour - largely to allow Sachin Tendulkar a home-Test send-off. They lost the Test series 2-0 and then the ODIs 2-1: six trophies in India's pocket.
A win in South Africa will cap a dream year in ODIs for India, and it's not beyond a team that has developed a ceaseless hunger for success.
Comparisons will be drawn and are drawn, not only with Sourav Ganguly's 2003 World Cup finalists, but also with Kapils' Devils, who put India on the world map, and the Class of '85, which clinched the World Championship of Cricket in Australia - a place then and still considered the benchmark of success by most nations.
Kapil & Co. defied the odds and the unbeatable West Indies to win India the World Cup in 1983. For some, Sunil Gavaskar-led team of 1985 went a step ahead, winning all their five games in Australia to return with the cup. Between 1985 and 2003, there was 'Desert Storm' and Sachin Tendulkar, and the moments to cheer all came at home with nothing to shout about on foreign soil.
Ganguly lit a fire in the early 2000s that first singed England in the famous Natwest Series final in 2002 and then almost set South Africa alight in the 2003 World Cup, until cold-blooded Australia murdered Indian hopes in the final.
The next four years were mired in Greg Chappell's controversial coaching tenure and India's ignominious first-round exit in the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean. But smiles returned the same year, and a new India was born with the 2007 World Twenty20 success in South Africa, which got better with the Commonwealth Bank series win in Australia next year.
Under MS Dhoni's carefree brand of cricket, India reached the pinnacle of ODI cricket with the 2011 World Cup victory and now sit atop the ICC ODI rankings and just behind South Africa in the Test rankings, having already enjoyed the view from top of that as well.
However, it wasn't all glory, glory between that momentous night of April 2, 2011, and the start of 2013. The world champions were defeated in England, failed to reach the tri-series final in Australia, even suffered an embarrassing loss to Bangladesh in the Asia Cup and then faced fans' ire for losing to Pakistan at home.
The transition phase had clearly taken over. Tendulkar and Dravid had left, Gambhir and Sehwag waxed and waned more often, while Yuvraj was diagnosed with cancer and Raina continued to take evasive action on short balls.
A new selection panel led by Sandeep Patil first took notice and then action. Veterans were shown the door, back came Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan; and in the last 11 months, Rohit, Dhawan and Virat Kohli have built mansions for themselves in the India dressing room.
India wouldn't have dreamt of such smooth transition from the days of Sachin, Sehwag, Gambhir and Yuvraj forming the core of an intimidating ODI top order. But Kohli, Rohit and Dhawan are quietly slipping into the shoes of India's 'Fab Three' in ODIs, with Cheteshwar Pujara making it 'Fab Four' in Tests.
While Dhawan has the flair of Ganguly, Kohli has shown Tendulkaresque hunger and Rohit a very, very special talent that reminds of Laxman. Pujara is already being compared to Dravid in his technique and application on the crease, though he still awaits a chance to make a mark in the one-dayers like Dravid did with over 10,000 ODI runs.
Coming back to talking exclusively in the ODI context, South Africa tour will present the 'Fab Three' their toughest test so far. A three-ODI series may not be the ideal scale to measure their skills overseas, but it offers a chance to create history - for the rainbow nation is the only place where India have never won an ODI series.