India had just finished their series against Sri Lanka, in December, and went on to play another series against Australia. Until then, the threat of the Coronavirus seemed minimal. But when they were in New Zealand, the monumental increase of the virus had started to created chaos around the world.
But, what happened inside the Indian dressing room? Weren’t they going around the city - Wellington, Hamilton, Auckland, Christchurch? Hold on, now it intrigues me and I know by now you must have been intrigued by what the meeting in the dressing room was like? When BCCI sent a press release on March 11 advising people how to take care of themselves during the time of the pandemic, it gave me the urge to find out what they really discussed when they were in New Zealand.
And, that is when I got in touch with one of the doctors, who is Team India’s consulting doctor in New Zealand and worked closely in the dressing room during the tour. For confidentiality purposes, I would not reveal his name but what I’m going to reveal is mind-boggling. Oh, after ‘The Test,’ it would be a dream for all to watch what happened behind the scenes? Well, we got you covered with the series of events in a text form, while we are still in contact with Amazon over making the documentary. And, this is how it panned out, according to the Doctor.
February 29, 2020 - India crashed to a defeat against New Zealand for the fifth time in a row, with the bowling unit and the batting unit failing in tandem. Just moments after the post-match presentation, this was the scene inside the dressing room. Ravi Shastri walked in and started off in a rather professor-esque tone. He goes like, “Oh boys, what a gigantic performance from you guys. We did well, unfortunately, it was not our day, so let us put it aside.” Immediately, the Indian skipper responds, “I’m disappointed boys, bowlers were non-existent, and fielders all of you - YOU NEED TO MOVE FROM PLAYING FIFA to PERFORMING ON THE GROUND.” Once the Doc told me this over the phone, I was shocked but not entirely, knowing how Virat Kohli operates. And, then the shocker, as Doc narrates it over the phone.
Doc went like, “OKAY GUYS, ENOUGH ABOUT THE GAME, I want to tell you guys more important stuff.” For a minute, there seemed to be pin-drop silence in the dressing room, as the doctor is very often the last person to rather give the crowd a dumb-down. And the doc added, “LISTEN TO ME CAREFULLY! This is regarding a possible ‘pandemic,’ as you would all have heard of - the Coronavirus. We must be careful, DAMN careful, DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING, PLEASE! And, if you wondered why India were lacklustre in the field? Here, I said it, it was because of Coronavirus, because of which India did not get hold of the ball, multiple catches dropped.
And then, the Doc was like “PLEASE SANITIZE YOUR HAND after every over, and try to reduce hugging and celebrating too much.” If you were wondering why India did not take many wickets, it was because of this, they did not want to celebrate because of the damned ‘Coronavirus,’ the one that has caught the entire world off-guard, like batsmen against the Mumbai Indians’ Jasprit Bumrah. And, after that, the entire room went PIN DROP SILENCE. Guess who stepped in front, Cheteshwar ‘Wall’ Pujara. He steps up and said, “Okay boys, we have heard about Coronavirus this, Coronavirus that. Let me tell you all what we actually should do, just like I defend the team out of trouble, Sanitizers will defend us till death and wear masks whenever we walk around in the city.” Just as Pujara was about to complete his monologue, there walked in Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane quipped, ‘Kay, Chaalu Aahe?’ albeit with a bar of soap in his hand. That is when the team realised that Rahane just like in the Test series was way ahead of the trend and the team, be it batting or be it in terms of information.
And, then Ravindra Jadeja, like always chipped in by asking, “What do we do when we get one?” Jadeja being Jadeja was scared that he will catch everything that comes his way. That is when Shastri steps back into the conversation and goes on a long-long speech, one that has ‘lecture’ written all over it. He goes like, “ Okay okay, we have had enough conversation about the virus. Just like our plans on the field, we can plan it away with some basic sanitisation - washing hands with soap & water for a minimum of 20 seconds, use of hand sanitizers. And just when he was on to his third point, there goes Umesh Yadav with a ‘sneeze,’ and the entire room goes back to being remorseful and suspenseful. However, Shastri looked at Yadav glaringly and went on to say cover your mouth with hands to the pacer, who continued to be ‘home-sick,’ on and off the field.
The Mumbaikar continued on and added that ‘Report to the medical team immediately in case of fever, cough or any illness.’ Guess who stood up first, Ishant ‘Lambu’ Sharma, saying but coach I already told you guys that I have a headache and slight body-pain, does it mean I have Coronavirus? Immediately, the dressing room looked shocked and a lot of eyes looked spooky because their star-pacer had just come out and asked that question. However, Doc immediately went like “Guys hold on! Stop panicking, it is not that way, and Ishant you are fine, you are just jet-lagged, don’t worry about it.” While all of this was happening, Super ‘V’ was busy on Instagram, where he posted a video, wishing FC Goa all the best for their encounter against Chennaiyin FC.
It required the ‘sane-ness’ of Rishabh Pant to come out and quash everything in one go, saying “I DON’T CARE IF I’M THE FIRST CHOICE OR NOT, or if I’m the junior or not, we have to TAKE CARE OF EVERYONE, right now when it matters.” Immediately, the entire room went dead-silent and everyone finally realised that it is a ‘Pandemic,’ one that has the ability to create a melt-down in any country, be it China or be it India. Words have never been truer than what Pant had to say on the virus and out of all, it was the guy who people assume to be playful and carefree to come out and talk about stuff that matters.
On their flight back home, the Indian team while being scared ensured that everyone carried bottles of hand sanitizer, which is the reason they are ‘Sold-out.’ And, if you are thought you are the only one, no, even Shastri did not get his share of sanitizer. Hence, guess what Shastri did, just like everyone on social media - had bottles of vodka and whisky thinking that it would prevent him from the virus. To add to that, he also had the bottle of ‘Corona,’ that he had saved for the post-series party after the T20I series which he now threw out of the window. While the virus led to a global outcry, the Indian players were discussing returning home and playing for their respective franchises. However, there was one sad face - Kohli, who’s team FC Goa lost their two-legged semi-final against Chennaiyin, which again meant Dhoni got an edge over him both as a captain and an owner. He also was worried that he would not win the IPL if the league got cancelled due to the virus when Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja reminded him that ‘Tera kya hoga Kohliya.’