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Dileep Premachandran is editor-in-chief of Wisden India

Team India veered from brilliant to abysmal in ODI’s

Virat Kohli

uhammad Ali didn't lose much, not in his prime anyway. When he did, to Joe Frazier in The Fight of the Century at Madison Square Garden, it changed the way he viewed life. "I never thought of losing, but now that it' s happened, the only thing is to do it right," he said. "That's my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life."

It isn't just defeat that has preoccupied Indian cricket followers over the past eight months. It's been the nature of them. The tour of England was horrendous, a whitewash in the four Tests followed by defeats in the one-day arena where India are world champions. A lot of fans consoled themselves by thinking that things couldn't possibly get worse.

But they did. In Australia, against a team that were supposed to be in crisis after losing at home to New Zealand, the Test side plumbed new levels of mediocrity. The batting was inept, the bowling insipid and the catches weren't taken when they needed to be.

After another 4-0 rout, the one-day series offered a chance for redemption. Instead, a team whose bonds have been weakened by repeated failure veered from the brilliant to the abysmal. Having started with two wins and a tie in their first four games, India closed the league phase with just one win from four, a sequence of results that left them needing a favour from Australia to make the final.

You can look back on this dire period as the time when Virat Kohli announced himself as the next Indian batsman of note.

They didn't get it, as Sri Lanka played superbly to defend 238 in Sydney on Friday night. So, after three months on the road, many of the team members are heading home to the same kind of damning headlines that greeted their return from England.

school of thought exists that suggests that missing out on the tri-series final was a blessing for Indian cricket. A place there and possible success might have been used to paper over cracks, and plenty have been visible for months now. A run of defeats may be demoralising, but in a lot of cases it can lead to the soul-searching and renewal necessary to chart a different course.

Sachin Tendulkar

It happened with the Indianapolis Colts in American Football last year. For a decade, they had been a marquee side, led by Peyton Manning, a player destined for entry into the Hall of Fame. But when he missed the entire season after neck surgery, they won just two of 16 games. Halfway though the most miserable run that most fans could remember, the mood changed. There were quite a few fans that wanted the team to "Suck for Luck", a reference to Andrew Luck, the first draft pick that the franchise would get if they finished with the worst record in the league. They were reconciled to the fact that their old hero might never return, and that a new start needed to be made with a fresh face.

For India, that's the only way to look back at this abomination of a tour. You can shed tears over the eclipse of the greatest middle order that the country has seen, or you can look back on this dire period as the time when Virat Kohli announced himself as the next Indian batsman of note. What Kohli did in Hobart earlier this week wasn't just make mincemeat of a huge total. He made many rethink the erroneous notion that India's young cricketers are obsessed with little other than IPL contracts and bling. He showed a nation scared to let go of its past that the future is not something to fear. He gave Indian cricket something to build on.

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