One is surprised to read everywhere that Test cricket seems dead in India with people suggesting that we should give up the longer format of the game if our players cannot cope.
One myth that has become ingrained in the mind of the Indian fan is that it is only India which gets whitewashed regularly abroad.
If you look at the statistics, then you will find that it is more common than you think.
Here’s a look at overseas Test whitewashes involving the Top 8 nations with 3 or more Tests in a series in just the last 5 odd years…
0-3: Pakistan in Australia, 2009.
0-4: India in England, 2011.
0-4: India in Australia, 2011-12.
0-3: Sri Lanka in Australia, 2012.
0-3: Pakistan in South Africa, 2013.
0-4: Australia in India, 2013.
0-5: England in Australia, 2013.
As you can see, there are five countries in that list. The only consistent team in this period is South Africa with no whitewashes. The only reason New Zealand and West Indies are absent from the list is because they play short series of 2-3 Tests each.
So looking at short 2-Test series, Windies have two 0-2s and the Kiwis a whopping six!
South Africa also has an Achilles heel. After their return from the Apartheid era, the Proteas have hosted the Australians on seven Test series and have won exactly zero of them! When it comes to the Aussies, the South Africans are lambs at home.
That also includes a 0-3 whitewash in 2006. Even England had a 0-5 in the very same year.
But India playing like this is nothing new and we have had our ups and downs...
Down 1947-67: Forget a Test series, we didn’t even win a single Test on foreign soil in this period. Towards the end of this phase, we had four straight whitewashes: 0-5 in England, 1959. 0-5 in West Indies, 1962.0-3in England, 1967.0-4 in Australia, 1967-68.
Up 1968-86:After the above abyss, out of the bluein 1968 we thrashed New Zealand 3-1. That was no flash in the pan and we beat the world champions West Indies in one of the biggest Test upsets ever in 1971.
In the same year we beat England. It was quite commendable because England had just then returned from a very successful world tour.
Whitewashes became very rare and we were competitive till 1986 when we beat England 2-0.
Down 1986-2002: After 1986, for 16 years, we didn’t even win one Test outside the sub-continent, forget a series. It was back to the dark days of pre-1968. This phase also ended in a whitewash in the form of Australia (0-3) in 1999-2000.
Up 2002-2011:We won our first Test outside the sub-continent in 2002 and since then we started winning with greater regularity.
Our Test wins in this period were: West Indies (3), Australia (2), South Africa (2), England (2), Pakistan (2), Sri Lanka (2) and New Zealand (1). For the record we also won in Zimbabwe (2) and Bangladesh(5).
From 2003 till the current debacle started in 2011, we didn’t lose a single overseas series by a margin of more than one Test (0-1 or 1-2).
Down 2011-:We went bust again as we did in the post-2006 period. Our five foreign series read 0-4, 0-4, 0-1, 0-1 and 1-3. Incidentally the current junior players have fared far better than their seniors.
In 8 Tests, the seniors had a win-draw-loss record at 0-0-8 while in the 9 Tests after that, the juniors have it 1-3-5.
The 1968 miracle victory happened when we had a new captain in the form of MAK Pataudi. The 1971 West Indies series victory saw the debut of Sunil Gavaskar.
The 2002 revival happened under Sourav Ganguly and John Wright and after that our batsmen reached their most competitive phase under their leadership. The good work was continued by Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni till 2011.
Now coach Duncan Fletcher is on his way out. Will a revival happen under the new coach? Or will things improve only after Dhoni steps down from Test captaincy and hands it over to a fresh mind?
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/