The Indian cricket team found itself in an all-too-familiar position in the Ahmedabad Test against New Zealand; half the side was back in the pavilion for next to nothing. Viewers across the country, and pundits in studios, waited for the usual story to play itself out—it didn’t. Instead of collapsing for a high two-digit or a low three-digit score, the Indian team fought its way to safety.
This isn’t the first time in the past year-and-a-half that the Indian cricket team has managed to get out of jail. It happened in Colombo against Sri Lanka earlier this year. It happened, famously, at Mohali against the Australians just last month. Indeed, in the past 12 Test matches it has played, India has won eight, lost two and drawn two. In some of these matches, it found itself pretty much in the same situation it did in Ahmedabad (sometimes while chasing for a win; sometimes while trying to save the match).
This Indian cricket team and the ones that represented the country before it have found themselves in such situations before, and watched things go the way of the opposition. The preferred chorus of the teams and their supporters whenever this happened—and it used to happen a lot—was “if only”. Great teams, though, aren’t built around excuses that have their origins in the mathematics of chance. They are built around the confidence of being able to succeed even, and especially when, the odds are against them. All great cricket teams of the past have posssessed the certitude that they can go out there and make things happen. The West Indian team of the 1980s had this, as did the Australian team of the 2000s.
It is this certitude, this resilience, that marks champions. In the last 12 Test matches India has played, there were times when things could have gone the way of either team, but one team made sure they went its way. Over the past year-and-a-half, that team has usually been India. To be sure, individual contributions (especially by one man, V.V.S. Laxman) have made a difference, but by and large, every member of the team has played a part—usually one that suggests they may have the certitude and resilience that is the hallmark of champions. The Test matches against South Africa will show the world whether they really have these qualities, or are mere pretenders.
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