2000-10 was India's greatest foreign Test decade ever. Our best overseas performances against all the countries in Test series were: Australia 1-1, South Africa 1-1, England 1-0, Pakistan 2-1, Sri Lanka 1-1, New Zealand 1-0, West Indies 1-0, Bangladesh 2-0 and Zimbabwe 2-0.
Statistically MS Dhoni is already India's greatest captain ever in ODIs, T20s and home Tests. By a mile! In that period he did well overseas too. Before 0-8, his foreign Test win-draw-loss record was 4-4-1. That means that he lost just 1/9 matches despite touring countries like South Africa and New Zealand.
Nobody could even imagine the absolute self-destruction that was around the corner. After the West Indies 2011 victory, India's overseas Test win-draw-loss record is 1-3-15. That means we have been able to win only 1/16 Tests!
Some questions to which absolutely nobody has any answer…
1. Why did India's greatest ever Test batting fold-up?
Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were our greatest Test batting line-up ever. Together the fab five have a whopping 50,000+ Test runs between them. Why couldn’t the combined might draw even one Test and participate in eight straight humiliating losses? We were world No. 1 before the 2011 England tour. A commentator pointed out that the difference in experience between the two teams was so great that India was bound to register our first Test series win on Australian soil in 2011.
But that didn't happen and the the fab five self-destructed simultaneously.
2. Why are we still failing so badly despite decent batting?
The replacements to the fab five have been decent. Many new Indian players debuted on foreign soil just more than a year ago and yet they have notched up good scores. A look at the foreign Test centuries/fifties of India's new fab five…
Virat Kohli (5/3), Murali Vijay (2/6), Ajinkya Rahane (2/6), Cheteshwar Pujara (1/6) and Shikhar Dhawan (1/2). That's impressive and everyone has a century outside the sub-continent. And yet we have just one solitary victory for three years now.
3. Why have we totally collapsed against spin?
The above shows that we are doing well against fast bowlers. For example at Johannesburg, Dale Steyn picked up just one wicket in 56 overs. That’s how the newcomers began their campaign. However we are clueless against spin. Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar humiliated us at home but then again they were dustbowls. Moeen Ali humiliated us in England and Nathan Lyon destroyed us in Adelaide. On the same pitches Indian spinners found hardly any assistance.
4. 2014- Ishant's best year and yet…
2014 has been Ishant Sharma's best year. He had three 5-wicket Test inning hauls from 2007-13 and he already has three in 2014. Ishant's Test bowling average for 2012 was 75.6 and for 2013 it was 48.2. His Test bowling for 2014 is 28.9, the first time his annual bowling average has fallen below 28.9.
Even Bhuvneshwar Kumar has an average of 30.3 and Umesh Yadav is 32.1. While that may not be there with Steyn & Co, it is decent and does not merit a 1/16 Test win record when added to the batting. In fact in the first innings at Brisbane, Yadav registered a delivery at 147.4 kph which was faster than all the balls sent down by Aussie bowlers in the first innings.
5. What ails Rohit Sharma?
For the only man in the world to hit two ODI double centuries including the highest 264 and who scored 177 on Test debut, what ails him? In the last one odd year outside the sub-continent, Rohit has one seventy, one forty, two thirties, two twenties and two tens. So why can't he even convert any one of them? Rohit made his ODI debut in 2007 and came of age only in 2013. Will we have to wait that long for him to perform consistently in Tests too?
6. What happened to the tail?
If the top order batsmen perform well, why does the tail collapse? Why doesn't it show any fight at all? In 0-8 we had only two 300+ team scores. In the last one-odd year we have a whopping 11 outside the sub-continent. Why hasn't the tail been able to capitalize on that?
Probably a major overhaul will be required after the World Cup. India needs a new captain, a new coach, a new strategy, new talent and maybe even a good team psychologist.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/