Suresh Raina makes a good point in Bangladesh:
“The [Indian] team’s graph is going upwards definitely,” he said. “These were the last matches of the season. We don’t know when we are next playing one-days. We have done quite well in the format and we are still No.2 in the world. It’s not that you become good or bad in just one series.”
It’s unlikely Raina will be able to temper the widespread anxiety unleashed by India’s first series loss to Bangladesh. Indian fans know that their country, among the few that follow cricket, is the most passionate about the game and that its ruling body, the BCCI, is the richest. And so not being able to defeat Bangladesh in an ODI series (or not being able to win any Test abroad for a very long stretch) hurts especially.
The problem of measuring quality is particularly acute in the game of cricket, which has, in the modern era at least, only had two out-and-out great teams (the West Indies and Australia). You could make the argument that after roughly five years in the wilderness, Australia is now back on top, but condescending fans would point rightly to losses in India and the UAE (against Pakistan). Measuring a quality team in cricket is more art than science; you have to check so many boxes that the question itself becomes problematic. Is win-loss the biggest factor? Is it really so bad that South Asian teams are generally bad travelers? Doesn’t a sterling home record (like Australia’s) outweigh the few bad losses abroad? Or is it about the quality of the players themselves — do you have a world-beating spinner, or a fiery pacer? And even if a team is able to check all the boxes, does it produce great cricket?
And so, amidst all this confusion, we confront the fact that we generally don’t have a consensus on defining a good cricket team. When India loses to Bangladesh, it exposes the anxiety underlying most Indian cricket fans’ hearts: Are we crazy to have put all our hopes and dreams and money and time into a team that has no clothes? For my part, I heed Rahul Dravid’s sage advice to young players in the Indian squad. He used to say: Remember, we’re neither as good nor as bad as they claim.