At least twice during the Twenty20 International (T20I) series against England, India found themselves staring down the barrel with their hands tied behind. In Bangalore, there was no scope for complacency after setting 202 – a par score at the venue, which gave their bowlers just enough runs to play with. Asked to bat first, India did well to not commit the cardinal sin of aiming too high and consequently falling down a bottomless abyss. Instead, they made every move with surgical precision, ensuring that they weren’t knocked out of the contest even before England came out to bat, on a ground notoriously favourable to teams chasing.
Half way into England’s reply, however, the target may have felt slightly inadequate, when Eoin Morgan and Joe Root were on a rampage, and Suresh Raina was taken for 22 in an over, which brought the required run-rate plummeting down from over 12 to a manageable 11 runs an over. With eight wickets in the shed and the momentum of an aeroplane at take-off behind them, England were galloping towards their target.
Thereafter, an ephemeral glance away from the action would have turned the world upside-down. Fortunes fluctuated on the field and on betfair, as India demonstrated their incorrigible knack to bounce back from seemingly forlorn situations. As if falling through a series of trapdoors, England crashed abjectly, losing all those wickets for just eight runs; the second worst eight-wicket collapse in international cricket.
Not for the first time this season under Virat Kohli, India saw opportunity in adversity, maybe even an ally, thereby quelling fears that they might not be up to the challenge with their backs against the wall. India were thoroughly examined by England through the course of the limited overs leg, starting with the first ODI in Pune, where an impossible win was wrought from the doldrums. In Nagpur, Kohli galvanised his troops in defense of a paltry 144, which helped India hang on to the T20I series by a slender thread.
The fears took root during Virat Kohli’s early days as permanent skipper, when India were devouring opponents for breakfast, lunch and dinner, just as nonchalantly.
On the platter were served South Africa at home; beaten black and blue without a semblance of a fight, albeit on diabolical, Bunsen turners. Sri Lanka before that hadn’t proved greatly appetising, notwithstanding a bad day in Galle. A tour of West Indies last year was exactly what it has been for eons; a traditional slaughter for visiting teams. Back home again, New Zealand were gobbled up like their own staple lager, as India rose to number one in the ICC Test rankings. India were unstoppable because they were good, but also because others were deplorable.
Though India were winning everything under the sun, that dichotomy rendered the sense of infallibility worrying.
After all, premature success stories fading away like distant smoke on the horizon are more than just glorified urban legends. Sourav Ganguly, considered the orchestrator of the greatest sea change in Indian cricket, which saw them not only dominate at home but also consistently compete overseas, credited the Eden Gardens Test match against Australia and the Leeds Test against England for the turnaround. The sight of him lustily waving his India jersey from the Lord's balcony is perhaps the most iconic image in Indian cricket history, that signposted the fact that India were battle hardened, both on and off the field. The Champions Trophy heist against South Africa in Colombo 2002 furthered India's reputation as a side with attributes akin to a phoenix. The following years, India reached the final of the 2003 World Cup, won a Test in Australia after 22 years and usurped Pakistan in Pakistan, across formats.
While it might be impossible to replicate the aforementioned feats, Kohli's team, much like Ganguly's and later MS Dhoni's, is regularly beginning to snatch victories from the clutches of defeat, thereby laying the cornerstone for a future we can all be proud of.