So when do me panic? We panic in unfavorable scenarios. We panic in situations when the things we can manage become unmanageable. How do we manage the overflow of a river? We build dams. But release the water when it's too much. How do teams fight back from worst of situations?
I am no cricket pundit to tell that. But, for all I know, terming the worst ever batting performance (36, remember the score) in the 88-year-old Test history of India, the only second instance of all 11 batsmen of a side failing to reach the double figures in the 143-year-old history of Test cricket - not 'alarming'- is certainly not the right way, unless a team's sky-high standards get fulfilled in barely managing to surpass New Zealand's 26 and are 'over the moon' at not succumbing to the lowest total ever.
The nation wants to know (the writer is shouting this at the top of his lungs), what are the world-class standards of Indian cricket for them not to get worried or frightened (alarmed) by the collapse and the defeat? Well, that is what we will be trying to decode today, why nothing is 'alarming' for Indian cricket any more?
Indian team loses the first Test against New Zealand to start off the year and captain Kohli states that the seven-wicket-loss and the Test that finished under three days, isn't as 'massive loss' as people want us to believe. Connecting the dots, did Virat just predict what was to come in Australia (bigger loss in two and half days). Now, if Kohli is 'Paul the Octopus' of Indian cricket, I don't know whether to be happy or sad. Happy that he could see future as his track record suggests so as he could see how better the Kiwi loss was and what was to come in OZ or be sad that by not terming the loss alarming, he's indicating to something even more dreadful to come.
But, let's keep the time traveller or foreteller tag to Jofra Archer only. Or else, my social media will soon get flooded that I am on the payroll of BCCI by the Pakistan and Bangladesh fans, just like ICC keeps getting spammed on being Indian Cricket Council than International Cricket Council. Yes, so where were we? Intent? Oh sorry, ALARMING. Years of listening to Virat closely, and I find it hard to get over "intent" more than my ex.
Getting all-out on 36 isn't alarming for India, they don't even know yet how it feels to make 250 in 2020. Lower your expectations, Indian fans. On the contrary, it would have been unnerving to see Indians score 250, even for the players themselves. Also, it was hardly a talking point for a captain to pick Saha over Pant in the Adelaide Test despite him being India's best wicket-keeper in Australia. But Saha is an orthodox player and his soft dismissals never look alarming, so let him be. And selectors and the team management could never find Shaw's technique alarming forget this display.
The great MSD lesson and high SENA standards
We all pretty well know the love and camaraderie between MS Dhoni and Kohli as the former was like a mentor/guru for Kohli. Given how devoted Kohli has been to Dhoni's teachings, these losses/collapses must not feel alarming as under Dhoni's leadership India had faced 0-8 drubbing in England and Australia respectively. And despite selectors' unanimous call for the sacking of MS Dhoni as captain, they could do nothing. There have been great precedents set in Indian cricket already, alarming eh?
Indian cricket and Kohli have some high standards to live up to in SENA countries too. Don't believe me? There was Mohammad Azharuddin, who never won a Test in SENA despite captaining the team in 21 Tests in these shores. Ganguly and Gavaskar won 2 Tests each out of 12 and 10 games while Dhoni won merely three of 23. Kohli has already won four Tests, so forget collapses, they already must feel like having won over the world. No wonder India kept harping about being competitive even after losing to England and South Africa 1-4 and 1-2 respectively. For India, the losses were never alarming, for them they were setting new benchmarks of success for a no.1 Test team with their supposed world-class standards.
The great MS Dhoni had once said after losing, "When you die, you die. You don't think which is the better way to die." Kohli knows when and where to apply different teachings of Dhoni. Or else, they wouldn't talk about being competitive, as a loss is a loss no matter the margin, especially for the no.1 side, which was perhaps masquerading in their minds, to be no.9/10 ranked side to get overjoyed over winning a dead rubber in South Africa and not beating England at a time when their batting stocks were at one of the worst.
Kohli didn't find Ravi Shastri's joke, sorry I mean take, of the present team being the best Indian side in last 15 years alarming as winning in New Zealand, England and drawing Test series in South Africa by the earlier team was worth nothing. May be winning only against Australia sans their two biggest players, which made their batting literally a walkover and losing in SEN countries makes a team the greatest ever. Some parameters these, folks!
Indian team management and the art of managing players
And the more the credit we give to the team management for not-so-alarming decisions the better it is. When it comes to player management, India's team management deserves a standing applause. First of all, I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for mainstreaming musical chairs again. For a nostalgia merchant like me, I have relieved my childhood in every subsequent Indian game in the last few years as this regime's crazy love for musical chairs even transcends mine.
One series Rahane was the no.4, one series it was Rayudu, then the 3-d boy Vijay Shankar came to play. But wait in the World Cup, it was Pant playing at 4 after the first few games. Now, all of them have vanished by the end of 2020. And these are only four of the 13 players that were tried at no.4 position from the start of 2017 to end of 2019. Take Rishabh Pant's case, for example, he was firstly fast-tracked to the Indian team, quickly made hundreds in Tests, but then failed in limited-overs formats and suddenly, at a time when he should have been backed, KL Rahul, literally out of nowhere turns into the white-ball gloveman.
Imagine the 23-year-old, his cricket career came upside down. He first didn't make to XI in dead rubbers in New Zealand ODIs just after it looked like he had started to come into his own in white-ball cricket in series against Windies. Then he wasn't even selected for limited-overs series in Australia, dropped for Adelaide Test after failing in New Zealand just like anyone else. You put up a truckload of baggage on a kid's shoulder and blame him when he fails, which was supposed to be his learning curve. "Both heads and tails of the coin are mine", do what you may, laughs out the bullish adult on the kid. But, all these things weren't alarming, why would a loss be, which is customary for India in SENA.
Freshness like never before
And definitions of "freshness" in Indian cricket is something that mere mortals can't lay a finger on. India loses the 2019 World Cup, to get some freshness on board, batting coach Sanjay Bangar is sacked, what you guys thought it was Kohli-Shastri calling the shots? Absolutely not. It was Bangar or why else he would have been made the scapegoat. Little knowledge is a dangerous thing, Indians fans. He was the real boss.
Also, there was a lot of freshness in the camp after Shastri and Bharat Arun returned back with reinvigorated energy to spread the magic in the air. The SENA nations defeats and World Cup botch-ups were minuscule in nature as all that the team needed was freshness. I feel sad for the poor Pakistani coaching staff, as of all them were sacked and guess what, even their trainer wasn't spared after WC. But don't mind these not-so alarming calls as these are just as prevalent as - BCCI and it's accountable nature.
Indian selectors and their many great qualities
Also, it would be the height of injustice if our outstanding selectors don't get slow claps as watching the Test team, you would never get an idea of how vast Indian domestic cricket is. But, let me tell you India’s domestic cricket is the biggest in the world and only last year,—a staggering 2,036 matches spread over seven-and-a-half months, multiple tournaments for men/women across age groups, 38 first-class teams in Ranji with 1000 players were staged.
But in the Indian Test team, we see a youngster like Rohit Sharma who failed in middle-order made Test opener despite having Gill in full flow. There are some players who break the door of selection with a mountain of runs like Mayank Agarwal and then a certain KL Rahul who kept piling up a heap of failures only to get persisted with for eternity.
Rahane, highly inconsistently at one point, got a long run as if the world would have ceased if he was axed from the team. And lower-order batters would need to bat at 5 if not for him, all this whilst blowing hot and cold for entirety of last SENA cycle. And if mixing formats is an art, then selectors are artists who can win Olympic gold medals if it was a sport. Dinesh Karthik gets dropped from T20Is for ODI performances. Iyer and Pandey get picked for T20Is on ODI displays. KL Rahul returns back to Tests for IPL runs. Shivam Dube gets picked in ODI side after his T20 exploits. Siraj gets selected and judged on limited-overs cricket despite being promising in red-ball cricket and the long of list of glory goes on and on.
There are so many alarms ringing bells in Indian cricket that a loss alone or a collapse are way too mainstream at least in the head of the men who matter. They very well know that they cut across anything alarming as their bubble is way too rounded to let anything in and is a result of the alarming system that has been institutionalized and nurtured over the years.
Disclaimer: This is a satire meant to be taken with a pinch of salt.