The Austrians, it is said, had a genius for defeat. If sport is war minus the shooting, then the New Zealand cricket team seems to have become the modern equivalent of the Austrians, the historical losers on the battlefield, as in World War I. In an unprecedented 5-0 Kiwi-wash, Team India came away with all the laurels in the T20 series, which, incidentally was their first-ever in this format over the southerners, who have been the eternal bridesmaids of cricket for nearly half-a-century.
Often found, like wine, to be not taking too well to travel, the Indians stressed their newfound mettle in the white ball game by coming out of each tight situation as is the wont of true champions. Twice they survived a test of nerves in Super Overs, which is the game’s most chancy lottery of a tiebreaker. There are very good signs to be read in this resilience as the Indians seemed to display the belief that, to borrow a phrase from the legendary Yogi Berra, no match is over until it is over.
Undisputed leaders in the Test format, Team India had been lacking the same self-belief in the white ball game and so the tour of New Zealand may represent a significant change.
What may not have changed though is dependence on the top four batsmen — Rohit Sharma, K.L. Rahul, Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer, with the team always looking even more positive when Rohit is in middling form.
It is the quality and cleverness in the bowlers of both spin and pace that sets this Indian team apart. The 34-run over by the rookie all-rounder Shivam Dubey in the last contest may have been an aberration. Not winning an ICC tournament for seven years is still an albatross around the necks of this very competitive side led by the combative Kohli. Their 5-0 win might be a turning point as this year’s T20 world championship is to be held Down Under.