India started playing Test cricket in 1932 and had to wait for a whopping 36 years to get its first foreign Test win. And then suddenly three came in a single series in 1968 as we thrashed New Zealand 3-1 on their soil.
That record still stands today and we have never won three Tests in a foreign series after that. We won the next two away series with the very strong teams of West Indies and England.
In fact the 1970s was a golden period for us when we started winning regularly at home and won Tests in West Indies, England, Australia and New Zealand. That feat is all the more remarkable because there were no Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka while South Africa had been boycotted.
That means Pakistan was the only team that we didn’t beat in away Tests.
Then we entered a drought again and from 1986 to 2000 when we didn’t win a single foreign Test!
However the partnership of captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright seemed to have changed that forever and we entered another golden run.
Did you know that from 2000 to 2011, we won at least one foreign Test in every single year?
If you remove Bangladesh and Zimbabwe from the equation, then still 2006-2011 happens to be a very productive period on foreign soils. So we won away Tests in 2006 (South Africa and West Indies), 2007 (England), 2008 (Australia and Sri Lanka), 2009 (New Zealand), 2010 (South Africa and Sri Lanka) and 2011 (West Indies).
We made another strong improvement and we were not whitewashed even in a two-match series from 2003 right to the World Cup 2011. That means that even as we won series in tough countries like England, we went down either 0-1 or 1-2, not worse than that.
And then suddenly it all collapsed and nobody seems to know why.
The last away Test we won is way back on June 23, 2011. Since then it has been a disaster all around. Our foreign Test record reads an abysmal 0-10. What’s even more alarming is that is most of these we didn’t even manage to give a fight.
But what are the reasons for this sudden collapse? The only new variable into the equation is coach Duncan Fletcher. But we did affect the first ever 4-0 whitewash against Australia and also won the ICC Champions Trophy, so it has not all been a disaster.
The other is the utter failure of captain MS Dhoni. But he has a 21-3 win-loss home record which is far superior to all the captains before him and why is there such a tremendous difference between his home and away captaincy.
Another thing is that before the disastrous England tour, Dhoni’s win-loss record in away matches was a healthy 5-2. So why did it suddenly collapse after that?
Our fast bowlers seem to have been totally ineffective during that period but they did get New Zealand 105 all down at Auckland showing that they have the firepower.
Is it the batsmen? But then Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir was out greatest Test batting line-up of all time, so why did they suddenly collapse in England and Australia.
Even the current lot of batsman doesn’t seem to be that bad. After the defining Perth Test in 2012, Virat Kohli averages a stellar 60 in away matches. Cheteshwar Pujara scored a 150 in South African soil and Shikhar Dhawan scored a century in Auckland.
Is it the green pitches? Is it the shot selection? Is it the short ball? Is it the fatigue? Is it the technique?
There are too many questions, but when you look at the 2011-14 period, nothing seems to have drastically changed after our 2011 ODI World Cup victory and yet we have collapsed in foreign Tests again and again.
At Johannesburg last year we couldn’t beat South Africa despite setting a massive victory target of 458 while in Auckland we hit a fighting 366 in the last innings chase but it simply wasn’t enough.
If the Indian think tank doesn’t get to the root of the issue of our mysterious capitulation on foreign soil and rectify it, then we are looking at total disaster because we are visiting England and Australia next.
However the immediate task at hand is to beat the No. 8 Test team at Wellington.
That itself seems a very tall order as of now.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/