Why are we relatively weak in foreign Test series? Before you say that we are poor travellers, note that we have won two ICC trophies in England (World Cup 1983 and Champions Trophy), a T20 World Cup in South Africa and a mini World Cup in Australia (1985). Only India and Australia boast of such consistency. Talking of Australia, it had never been whitewashed in any international format in any home series with three or more matches. That is till India blanked the Aussies 3-0 in the T20 series early this year.
Our foreign Test jinx played itself out brutally in the current series with the West Indies. In the first Test at Antigua we thrashed our opponents by an innings and 92 runs. In the second Test at Kingston at the end of four days, West Indies was on the mat at 48/4 after crashing to 196 all down in the first innings.
India needed six wickets in 90 odd overs, an easy task considering the woeful form of the Windies and the stellar form of the Indians for quite some time now. And then out of the blue, West Indies made 300 odd runs on the last day and lost just two wickets!
It's getting to be quite predictable now on foreign Test series. If we are in a chance to win our first Test, then we blow it. If we somehow don't and lead 1-0, then we can't extend that lead no matter what. 2-0 is something that totally eludes us.
In the Sri Lanka series last year, we led 1-0, but lost the second Test. Before that in Australia in the first Test we collapsed from 304-6 to 315-10 chasing 366. In England in 2014, we led 1-0 after the second Test and then totally collapsed to go down 1-3.
In New Zealand the same year, we collapsed from 324-6 to 366-10 while chasing 407 in the first Test. That's a bit reminiscent of the first Australia Test as mentioned above.
It happened to Sourav Ganguly. He failed to hold on to his 1-0 leads against tough opponents like Australia and easy opponents like Zimbabwe (though he was second time lucky against that weak country and a much weaker team).
Even Ganguly led 1-0 in the West Indies and when Indian commentators were talking of whitewash we ended up losing 1-2. It was curious because the West Indian team was totally in a mess at that time and India was in the ascendant.
It happened to Rahul Dravid too. He couldn't hold on to his 1-0 lead in South Africa and we lost 1-2. Ganguly-Dravid couldn't hold on to their 1-0 lead in Pakistan either. We have won 2-1 in some of these series, but never led 2-0.
Then there was MS Dhoni. Attacking in the shorter formats and home Tests, he would start relaxing in foreign Tests when we led 1-0 and not press ahead. The most curious example of this was New Zealand in 2009.
We were leading 1-0 in the final Test and Dhoni just made his team bat and bat and set New Zealand an impossible target of 617 runs. That must be among the most defensive targets ever. The best part is that we still got 8 second inning Kiwi wickets. Had we even set an improbable 500 target, we would have got more time to get those two wickets.
West Indies is also a curious case. We have won three series there. That's really good considering we have exactly zero Test series wins in South Africa and Australia. But in all these series we won a solitary Test and played out draws in the rest.
So far new captain Virat Kohli is following the above mentioned script. In Sri Lanka he led 1-0 and lost that lead though he admirably did end up winning the series. In West Indies too, he couldn't convert a 1-0 into 2-0.
The first reason given for the lack of 2-0s and 3-0s is that we are poor travellers. But then we have done really well in many foreign Test series and just fail to land the knockout punch when our opponents are on the mat.
The second reason given is that we have a poor bowling attack. But look at the current West Indies series before the final day of the second Test. Their innings read… 243-10, 231-10, 196-10 and 48-4.
Despite this tremendous bowling performance, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Amit Misra picked up exactly two wickets in 90 odd overs. That makes absolutely sense.
That's always been our story in foreign Test series, especially outside the sub-continent. Before the final day of the second Test, many Indian fans were thinking "4-0", but now that chance has gone.
Despite everything, Kohli gets another crack at 2-0 in the third Test at Saint Lucia.
Let's hope Team India doesn't blow it this time yet again!
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here