After the dismal and disappointing defeat to New Zealand in the first Test where Virat Kohli’s men were squashed over by 10 wickets, the skipper took to the media. What followed next was outrageous and in many ways, quite surprising. Kohli took little time to label the critics as ‘deterrents who try to keep the team in a mentally bad space’ and the criticism that came in the way of the team as ‘outside the noise.’
The statement reeked of obnoxious entitlement and sparked a wave of discussion over social media. It must be remembered here, that Kohli and his men pride themselves in being ‘the best Indian team in the last 15 years’ and are known to be a side that can beat any team anywhere. So, they cannot simply escape flaws and mistakes when things suddenly don’t go their way. First, the whitewash in the ODI series was termed as ‘irrelevant’, given that it is the year of the T20 World Cup.
If the comeback in the ODI series against Australia was celebrated with so much fanfare barely a month ago, the serial losses to World Cup finalists New Zealand cannot suddenly be labelled as ‘irrelevant.’ The Test series and ODI series victory against Australia in Australia in 2018-19 was termed as one of the most pivotal and decisive moments in the modern history of Indian cricket given that this current side managed to conquer Australia away from home.
If all the praise and plaudits back then wasn’t taken with a pinch of salt even though India took on a seriously depleted Australian squad without the likes of David Warner and Steve Smith then why should the deserved criticism aimed at the poor performance of the Indian team this time be any different?
No international assignment for India can be termed as irrelevant, Sunil Gavaskar pointed that out correctly. A team that continues to aim to be the best in all three formats, and dominate the sport, cannot become gloated after a victory and complacent after a loss. This selective bias that reflected in Kohli’s statements could as well be the mentality of the dressing room, since Virat’s press conferences have often relayed a mental map of what the dressing room thinks like.
With 360 points, India occupy the number one spot in the World Test Championship, 64 points above Australia in the second spot. Numbers suggest India have been the best side since last year, but is that really the case?
Before taking on New Zealand, India played 7 Tests against West Indies, Bangladesh and South Africa – three Tests that are placed at the bottom of the table. India are yet to face their toughest opponents in the World Test Championship and with England and Australia all gearing up for the WTC Final in Lord’s in 2021, it could prove to be a more resilient journey than what it might seem right now.
There were several flaws in India’s display at Basin Reserve that led to the conversation in the first place that skipper Kohli failed to address. Prithvi Shaw failed to make an impression in any of the two innings, putting a lot of pressure on Mayank Agarwal. While Shaw continues to have the backing of the management and his captain, maybe, the conditions in New Zealand aren’t best suited to push the youngster into the depths.
The middle order has been far from its best. Cheteshwar Pujara, known for steadying things when the going gets tough, rarely got going and Virat Kohli did little to ease off the pressure as well. Kohli’s personal form would also be under much scrutiny given how he has thrown away his wickets in New Zealand.
While it’s true, that many of these problems are not incorrigible, there must be the room for dialogue to accept these issues and work steadily to demonstrate better performances abroad. If the players, led by the captain are the first to celebrate milestone victories, they cannot and should not escape deserved criticism that comes their way and look for excuses.