As India prepare to take on Australia in the fourth and final Test at New Delhi to try and achieve a feat they have never before accomplished – a clean sweep in a four-Test series – it is worth pondering over their awesome record at home as compared to their patchy record abroad.
Perhaps no other country has a more disparate home and away record. 'Tigers at home and lambs abroad' is a description that has regularly fitted the Indians notwithstanding their improved overseas performance in recent years. But the two successive 4-0 setbacks in England and Australia only served to highlight the fact that India are still fairly uneasy travellers.
For example Indian teams have yet to win a series in Australia and South Africa. The record in Australia is particularly woeful considering the fact that it was way back in 1947-48 that India first made their tour Down Under. India has just five victories against 26 defeats. Australia have registered seven series triumphs.
It was only in 1992-93 that an Indian team first went to South Africa but a record of two wins against seven defeats says it all. The home team has also emerged triumphant in four series.
The Indian record in England is slightly better – but only slight thanks to three series triumphs in 1971, 1986 and 2007. Overall though the victory - defeat ratio is as bad – five victories against 27 defeats and England’s overwhelming superiority is underscored by the fact that they won as many as eleven series.
In the West Indies the upsurge in the Indians fortunes coincides with the slide in Caribbean cricket. India did win her first series there in 1971 and then two more followed in 2006 and 2011 when almost any country touring the West Indies would return victorious. On the other hand West Indies have registered seven series triumphs.
In New Zealand predictably enough the record is better with five victories against seven defeats though 41 years separated the two series triumphs in that country in 1968 and 2009. The Kiwis emerged triumphant in four series.
One would have thought that Indian teams would have fared well in Pakistan given that the conditions are much the same. On the contrary, it was after nearly half a century of playing in that country and 20 matches that had been either lost or drawn that India won her maiden Test in 2004. They went on to emerge triumphant in that series.
However Pakistan has won three contests at home and an overall record of two wins against seven defeats only augments the theory that India are kings only at home and not even in the subcontinent. Much the same can be said about India’s other neighbour Sri Lanka where India have won just one series in 1993 whereas the hosts have won three. Here too it is an adverse win – loss ratio of four to six.
Predictably enough it is only against the lightweights of international cricket Zimbabwe and Bangladesh that India have a positive win – loss ratio. In Zimbabwe it is 3-2 while in Bangladesh it is 4-0. Bangladesh of course is the only side yet to play a Test in India.
A look at the record at home and the disparity becomes obvious. For starters, against their oldest opponents India have won 15 while England have won 13. England have won four contests while India have emerged triumphant in six. Against Australia it is again a positive balanced sheet – 18 wins against 12 defeats going into the Test at New Delhi. India have won six home rubbers to Australia’s four.
South Africa have held their own in this country with five wins against five defeats but the overall home record shows India winning two series and South Africa one.
West Indies is the only country against whom India has an adverse win loss ratio at home – 14 defeats to nine losses. Also the visitors have won five series and lost three to complete their impressive record. But of course most of the Indian reverses can be traced to the early days when the batsmen found the Caribbean pace battery too hot to handle and also to the 80s when the visitors were at the peak of their powers, battering down all opposition.
Against New Zealand, India not unexpectedly has a vastly superior home record – 13 victories to just two losses. The lop sidedness of the contests is underlined by India’s eight series victories to New Zealand’s nil. And in contrast to their away record in Pakistan India holds the edge in contests at home winning seven matches to the visitors’ five. As regards series battles the score is India 3, Pakistan one.
The most perfect record is against Sri Lanka with the visitors not having won even one Test despite half a dozen visits over the last 30 years during which India have won ten matches besides four series, not counting one-off Tests. Another country that has failed to win a Test in India is Zimbabwe but they have played only five matches, losing four.
So as visiting teams have found out over the years, India at home is a very different proposition from India abroad. This puts the recent series victory by England in proper perspective as a significant feat. India’s mind boggling record here is best illustrated by one single astonishing fact – the team notched up ten successive home victories in the period 1988–1994 mowing down New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, England and the West Indies in that period.
There is little doubt that the venues in this country are the Indian team’s fortresses and that is a happy thought on the eve of the New Delhi Test.