What would it do to Roger Federer if he made first-round exits in all four Grand Slams in a year, or to Brazil if they lost their first round games in the football World Cup to North Korea, Ivory Coast and Switzerland? It would make them think, wouldn't it? It would make them worry, go quiet, wonder if they needed to start afresh, work on their basics again and strive like hell to ensure that the next time they took the field, or the court, they did enough to restore the faith of their fans in their abilities.
The Indian cricket team, till recently, was the No. 1 in Test matches - whatever the merits or demerits of the ranking system – and remain the world champions in the One-Day International format. But it's also a team that, while doing all right in limited-overs matches, has lost 0-4, 0-4 and 1-2 in the three Test series they have played against good opposition in recent times. Of course, there were reasons why this happened, and, no, it's not the end of the world.
But till India become a strong team again – capable of beating all opposition at home and pushing hard, pulling off at least draws, in series overseas - there has to be a period of humility. It's a good virtue to possess even when on top, but when on a downslide, it's pretty much obligatory.
What we have instead, ahead of the four-Test series against Australia, is Harbhajan Singh mouthing dialogues like "We'll show them how we play cricket in India" and Rohit Sharma, after an innings of 77 against the Australians in a tour game, saying, "We didn't do well in the last series, but it doesn't matter, because over the years we have done well. This time around also I am expecting the same."
It doesn't matter, Rohit? How can it not matter that the Indian team couldn't do the one thing it could always be counted upon to do? And the bravado in Harbhajan's words smacks so much of arrogance, misplaced arrogance at that, that it's cringe inducing.
It's obvious that their cockiness comes from the fact that the Australian team looks, if it were possible, even more undercooked than the Indian team does at the moment. Why, when he was asked why his team is shy of a few pre-series verbal salvos – unlike visiting Australian units in the past - Michael Clarke said, "It's not about what you say, it's about what you do. It's no good making statements and comments and not backing them up."
Clarke accepts the changed circumstances: "When you look at the team now compared to when I first came in, we had so many experienced players, so many great players; probably seven or eight players in the team were as good as any seven or eight players in the world."
Makes sense. Promise only as much as you can deliver. When McGrath said something, he followed it up with relentless outside-off stump aggression. When Warne told us he had just developed a new weapon of mass destruction, he probably had. This Australian team doesn't, yet, have that quality of personnel.
But coming back to the Indians, has anything changed between 1-2 against England and now? Not really, unless Gautam Gambhir's presence in the playing XI instead of M Vijay or Shikhar Dhawan was the only thing that prevented India from beating England. Or is the chest-thumping in anticipation of beating a team that, perceptibly at least, is not up to the challenge?
But then, many people thought India had a great chance of beating Australia in Australia in 2011-12 – it went 4-0 to Australia. And England in India - of course we'd win. We didn't.
Why the big words then? Why the desperate urge to sound like a Bollywood hero? Why not save the words for a better day, when no one will snigger in response?