In 2011, India lost two series in England and Australia 0-4 and 0-4. Our old guards retired and a new lot took over. We didn’t play any overseas Tests in 2012 and if we look at 2013-14, then one finds that we have batted well and have mostly dismissed the top order batsmen cheaply.
There is just one failing: Our inability to shut out the tail and we thereby lose or draw our matches as the following examples listed out in chronological order clearly show…
Johannesburg: During Team India's first overseas assignment sans the Indian legends in 2013, the game at Johannesburg (December 18-22, 2013) turned out to be one of the greatest draws of all time and the beginning of our woes against the tail. India was shaking off the abysmal 0-8 record and made a fighting 280.
In one of our best bowling performances, we got South Africa 244 all down thereby taking a crucial 36 runs lead. We batted even better in the second innings thanks to Cheteshwar Pujara’s 153 and made 421. The target set was a formidable 458. We had South Africa at 197-4 with 75 odd overs to go to get 6 wickets at one stage. So far so good!
However our bowling lost steam after that. South Africa ended the day with 450-7 and would have won if it had 2-3 overs more.One feels that this set the pace for things to come and had we won that match then psychologically, things may have been very different. This was the very first overseas Test after 0-8.
Auckland: During India's tour of New Zealand this year (February 6-9, 2013), India skittled out the hosts for 105 in the second innings. No complaints there, but a statistical break-up shows an interesting story.
New Zealand were 25-5 at one stage. The first 5 wickets put of 25 runs and the tail made more than triple of that (80). So the tail was much longer than the main body. OK this may have not been that humiliating, but we still lost the match.
Wellington: The second Test at Wellington (February 14-18, 2013) saw the most humiliating Indian Test bowling of all time to a tail. In the first innings, New Zealand made 192 and India in reply amassed 438.
In the second innings, New Zealand were 94 for the loss of 5 wickets. The Kiwis needed 152 runs to make us bat again. Innings defeat was certain. If India bowled really badly then we would still win by 8-10 wickets.
However the Indians bowled abysmally and one triple century and two centuries from tail-enders (BradleyWatling and James Neesham) took the Kiwi score to a mammoth 680-8. The tail made a mind-boggling 524 runs and we still couldn’t get them out!
In the end it was the Indians who played out a draw.
Trent Bridge: In the first Test of the England tour (July 9-13, 2014) this year, India came out with a fine fighting performance putting up 457 runs on the board thanks to a fighting 146 by Murli Vijay. In reply our opposition was at a precarious 197-5. From here they actually went past India to post a fine 496 and the match meandered into a draw. A chance for a rare overseas victory was totally squandered yet again.
Old Trafford: In the fourth Test match (August 7-9, 2014) India crashed to an abysmal 152 in the first innings but still was fighting in the match when they had England at 140-5. However from there the opposition took the game away as they posted a formidable 367. And it became difficult to even save the match let alone win. India lost by an innings.
The Oval: In the fifth Test, (August 15-17, 2014) India were shot out for a mere 148 but still was fighting in the match when they had England at 229-5. However from there our opposition took it to a formidable 486 and the match panned in England's way. Joe Root remained not out on 149 as he got able support from all the bowlers.
Adelaide: In the first Test of the 2014 Border-Gavaskar series (December 9-13, 2014), Australia was at 354-6 and with a bit of good bowling would have got the opposition all out for 400. However the seventh wicket pair put up a whopping 163 runs and took the score to 517.
They declared soon after and Indian bowlers had toiled wicket-less for 30 overs. That partnership proved crucial as India made a fighting 444 and 315 (they rarely cross 300 in an overseas series and here they did it twice in a match) but still ended up on the losing side.
Brisbane: In the second Test at The Gabba, (December 17-21, 2014) on a green wicket, India came out with a fine fighting performance putting up 408 runs on the board thanks to a fighting 144 by Murli Vijay. In reply our opposition was at a precarious 247-6.
From there the Aussies went to make 398-8. If one thought then at least then we could take a slender lead, we were mistaken. The Aussies finally made a commanding 505, taking a lead of 97. Just about any foreign bowler in the world can take apart the best Indian bowlers and the nightmare never ends!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/