India’s slump in overseas Tests has confounded all the pundits of the game.
Some common myths are being bandied about and here’s looking at some of them…
Myth 1: We have always been poor travellers.
India won the ODI World Cup in England in 1983. It won the mini World Cup in Australia in 1985.
The ICC Champions Trophy was won both in Sri Lanka 2002 and in England 2013. We won the T20 World Cup in South Africa.
Leaving Australia, one can’t think of any team with such a consistent performance throughout the world. We are always competitive in ODI series and the NatWest Trophy of 2002 in England and 2008 Commonwealth Bank Series in Australia come to mind.
In Tests we were hopeless overseas till 1967, but it changed after that. In 1968 we beat New Zealand 3-1 and beat both West Indies and England in 1971.
Since then whitewashes have been rare and we have always been competitive.
India has won a Test series in West Indies thrice. Contrast that with Pakistan which has never won once. India has also won a Test series in England thrice. Contrast that with Sri Lanka which won their first only in 2014.
The truth is that all teams generally do well at home and India has always been competitive even outside the sub-continent and our form since 2011 defies explanation.
Myth 2: We can’t play fast bowlers on green pitches.
Lord’s was the greenest of pitches that anyone had seen in ages and despite that India recorded a fine victory. South Africa is the toughest country to play right now and Dale Steyn the toughest bowler to face.
Yet at Johannesburg, Steyn took just one wicket in the first innings and drew a blank in the second when India made 421 runs.
When one looks at the last three overseas series in South Africa and New Zealand, then Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan all have at least one century.
Also in this series many of the non-specialist batsmen have hit half-centuries: MS Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja and Stuart Binny. Even Ravichandran Ashwin made 86 runs in the Old Trafford match.
And if you look back at 0-8 and Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman and say that they can’t play fast bowlers on green pitches, you need to have your head examined.
Even how Virender Sehwag suddenly fell apart on foreign pitches is a mystery.
Myth 3: We need more foreign practice matches.
Here’s looking at all the times we took a 1-0 lead outside India in a Test series against the Top 8 nations…
West Indies—2002, Australia—2003, Pakistan—2004, South Africa—2006, England—2007, New Zealand—2009, West Indies—2011 and England—2014.
In most of these series we failed to hold on to our leads.
The contradiction is that we perform well in the beginning of the tour when we haven’t had enough practice and collapse towards end when we’ve had enough practice. The same thing has happened in our last three tours.
In the first Test in New Zealand we gave a fine fight chasing 407 by making 366 with the top 9 batsmen reaching double figures.
We almost won the first Test in South Africa. And in England we drew the first Test and won the second.
Myth 4: We are still masters of spin.
Time was when we kept the best spinners in the world in the form of Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. If new spinners like Ajantha Mendis got the better of us, we quickly mastered them. Not anymore.
We lost to England at home in 2012. Graeme Swann took 20 wickets and Monty Panesar got 17. That’s a rare two spinners getting the better of us. In the Australia series Nathan Lyon picked up 15 wickets. Had the series been closer, then Lyon would have had a greater impact.
In the West Indies series Shane Shillingford picked up 11 wickets. And now a part-time spinner called Moeen Ali has picked up 19 wickets against India in four matches.
One can’t remember the last time so many spinners have got the better of India in a period of two years.
We have the resources, technique and talent, but we simply don’t have the mental toughness to give it 100% in a full foreign tour.
Till the team management sort that out, things are only going to get worse.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http:///sunilrajguru.com/