The glorious uncertainties of cricket is a cliché which has stood the test of time in a sport that can be an unpredictable game of snakes and ladders that never ceases to surprise. India’s stunning descent in the one-day series and the Test that followed is an affirmation of these glorious uncertainties that make cricket the most challenging sport to assess and comment upon.Just when comparisons were being made with outstanding teams of the past and how this Indian team has the potential to be one among them, India were handed out a drubbing by a resilient New Zealand side that has no pretentions to greatness.
From a vibrant, dominant team to being a brittle and fragile outfit that could not get past the 200-run mark in both the innings and surrendered without a fight is something that even the most objective observers will find hard to explain.Is this defeat an aberration that will soon be erased from memory with a bagful of wins to follow, or are there some inherent weaknesses that will continue to haunt Indian batsmen in foreign conditions? Hard as it may be to digest this comprehensive defeat for a team and its captain who is a self-professed perfectionist and hates to lose, his defensive reaction to a loss which reflects some sort of paranoia of the “outside” is hard to understand.
This “us” versus “them” theme continues to surface when India loses, which is never at home, mostly outside. Be it South Africa or England and now New Zealand, comments like “we are a side that has never paid attention to outside noise and we will continue to do so” have a familiar ring to it.When Virat Kohli is winning, he is at his charming best, smiling and winning friends with his frank and honest answers, but a defeat makes him almost recoil and believe that the outside world is against him and his team. It has happened in the past and is happening in New Zealand as well.The reaction to the one-day whitewash was a bit intriguing, with the blame being placed on the “irrelevance” of the series and not on lack of performance. It is no secret that the Indian team captain and coach believe that in the year when the T20 World Cup is to be played, one-dayers are a meaningless interlude that don’t help in preparing for the big event. That explains the use of the word “irrelevant” to defeats that may need deeper introspection and course correction.
The Tests are a different ball game and mercifully can never be called meaningless. The reactions to defeat here can’t be blamed on their irrelevance. Kohli, the passionate follower of his own fortunes, whose motto is “win at any cost” must be crestfallen at the combination of the loss and his own lack of runs in the series. He must be searching for answers and without doubt must be figuring out what went wrong and how to avoid repeating those mistakes. Self-belief fuels his boundless energies and he has shown in the past he is at his most dangerous when nursing a wound. This “inside” versus “outside” construct is fine in the context of a cricketing contest but to apply it outside of it, to say the least, is a bit intriguing.As he moves ahead in life and towards even greater sporting accomplishments, it is best he gets rid of this feeling of “victimhood” that does no good to anyone and can even be self-destructive.