After the 4-1 series drubbing at the hands of England, India’s bruised egos got a perfect massage in the form of the two-Test series against the West Indies. What should have been 10 days of cricketing action, lasted merely six days with India sweeping the series in a ruthless manner. And with that, the failings in countries like England have been swept under the carpet.
Most batsmen who looked all at sea in difficult English conditions and against an admittedly superior attack, shed their indifferent form and notched up significant scores against a listless Windies’ bowling group that had been rendered even weaker in the absence of one key bowler in both the Tests.
This was India’s 10th series win on the trot at home, a feat achieved only by Australia previously. Looked in isolation, this is a significant achievement but appears shallow given their performance in countries like England, Australia and South Africa — places where India have won just three Tests out of the 19 they have played since their two-Test series against South Africa in December 2013.
Interestingly, it has been their batsmen who have let the team down even as bowlers (mainly the pacemen) have delivered consistently in the last couple of series. They bowled out South Africa in all six innings while in England only in the second and fifth Tests they failed to dismiss their opponents twice. Barring skipper Virat Kohli, whose performance in and outside India has been top notch, none of the other batsmen (see the box) has managed to produce good scores.
There is a significant dip in their averages when they play in Australia, England and South Africa as compared to their figures in the sub-continent or West Indies, where conditions, more or less, are similar.
After his wretched run in England in 2014, Kohli’s batting graph has only gone up whereas others’ has been more down than up.
Someone like Ajinkya Rahane, who had the best overseas average among current Indian batsmen, has seen considerable downward swing in his average since the start of this year. K L Rahul, despite the potential, hasn’t been able to strike consistency while Cheteshwar Pujara, who has averaged over 61 on sub-continental pitches since 2013, has not been able to replicate his home performances in Australia, South Africa and England where his combined average is just under 33 in 17 Tests.
Similarly, the difference in average for Shikhar Dhawan, who was finally left out for the series against the West Indies, is a whopping 35.57 while for Rohit Sharma it’s 36.43 which clearly reflects their weakness against the swinging and bouncing ball.
While it is imperative to play countries like the West Indies given the commitment to telecast rights’ holders who pay through their noses, the Indian Board should think of providing quality acclimatisation time in countries where India have often struggled. It serves no one’s purpose if the team management keeps harping on wins over weaker teams in familiar conditions and calls it a universal phenomenon when the team suffers reversal in fortunes in tougher environs. To be a worthy No 1 ranked team, you should win in all conditions and against all opponents.