When India lost the fifth and final ODI against the South Africans, people weren't surprised. Perhaps it was a confirming vindication of a new found belief - Team India has mastered the art of manufacturing defeats. It was a white wash for the Proteas and for India, the colour white has never been more black.
The writing is clear on the wall- Indian cricket is going through catastrophic times. So how do fans cope up? They are finding solace in some humour. No wonder, Team India has become the joke of the nation.
A disillusioned fan tendered- " Atleast we are losing progressively. The margins of defeat are coming down - 157,106 and now 80 runs in the 4th ODI. In due time we will close in the difference and we are in the process of getting there." His optimism was feigned and sarcasm very much evident.
Another one quipped, after the 4th ODI- "The target was well within reach, but we probably ran out of batsmen."
There are other jokes doing the rounds, perhaps too inappropriate to find mention here.
When most of the fans had long turned off their televisions after losing the fourth ODI, a poker faced Sehwag stepped in for the presentation ceremony. Living well to the Indian tradition of furnishing explanations where there aren't any, he commented-"India missed experienced batsman in the middle order"
Probably he was alluding to the exit of Dravid. But even when Dravid was present India wasn't faring any better. At any rate there is no dearth of experience in Team India. Tendulkar, Sehwag, Kaif, Dhoni etc have been there long enough.
Sehwag further exhorted fans to keep faith - "I want the fans to keep trust in us. Things cannot change in a day and it will take time to improve," he said.
How ironical. Have people lost faith in Team India? Can it ever lose faith in it. Had it been any other country, people would have stopped bothering. But Indians, seldom lose faith and never in case of cricket. No wonder, people flock to see India play with the same zeal, loss after loss. It's going to be no different in the near future.
However, could it be the other way round. Has Team India lost faith in its fans? Has it stopped caring for them? What else should be made out of the soulless display in SA. It are not losses per se, but the magnitude of loss, which is more shameful. Team India couldn't even put up a fight in any of the matches. The score would have definitely been 5-0, had the rain gods not decided to get the first ODI abandoned.
However, it is very much apparent that Team India is making it increasingly impossible for fans to keep faith in it, courtesy a series of non-performances.
Should we say that our crickets can't stand even a little bit of constructive criticism. Can we forget the untimely comment of Guru Greg saying that the West Indians had lost the art of winning? This one goading statement was enough to inspire the Caribbeans to inflict crushing defeats on India.
Scores of thesis are being muted to explain the inexplicable state of Indian cricket. The motley crew of selectors, a 'process' obsessed coach, poor form of cricketers, their lack of commitment and firepower etc are some of the reasons. Probably all these are to be blamed, but it doesn't account for the full story.
Cricket is a religion in India. Not without reason it is claimed to be the Mecca of cricket. Perhaps we are missing the role of Indian fan. He loves his cricketers so much that he is willing to condone all fallacies and failures of Team India time after time. It is this divine zest of fans, that sustains cricket in India.
The acceptance of fans is taken for granted by our beloved cricketers. Instead of working as a motivator, this very fact has made our cricketers hopelessly complacent. They have taken their popularity for granted.
But things are precariously poised. These are not normal times. Some more losses and the fans' honeymoon with cricket could be over beyond redemption. It would then be a question of self pride. Concerns of self pride would always dominate all other things in the Indian system of life.
We have not lost faith Mr Sehwag. It's just that we are a bit hurt.
Don't add insult to injury by questioning our faith.
After the disastrous ODI series, fans are waiting with bated breaths for the Test Series. India has never won a Test match in SA. If India could achieve this miracle, it would to some extent wipe the despair of the ODI series loss.
- Kamal K Agrawal Email: email@example.com