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500 Not Out: India in Test matches

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An analysis of India's performance in the Test arena, since its first match in 1932.

The 2001 Kolkata test is one of the most memorable test victories for India
 

Indian cricket’s faithful servants have conjured moments which have gone down in its history as path breaking, awe-inspiring, and jaw-dropping achievements. On the occasion of India playing its 500th test match, it is apt to have a look at how its fortunes played out in the 84 years that India has played in the international stage. 

CK Nayadu’s 153 (11 sixes included) vs the MCC in 1926, Lala Amarnath’s (and India’s) first test century vs England in 1933, Vijay Hazare’s scoring twin hundreds (145 & 116) vs Australia in 1948, Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy’s 413 run opening stand vs New Zealand in 1956, Subhash Gupte’s 9-102 vs West Indies in 1959 were a few of the achievements for Indian cricket pre-1960.

Sunil Gavaskar’s aggregate 774 runs vs West Indies in 1971, series wins in West Indies and England in 1971, India’s first win on Australian soil in 1977, Sunil Gavaskar crossing 10,000 test runs in 1987, Kapil Dev’s 432nd wicket in 1994, Anil Kumble’s 10-74 in 1999, VVS Laxman’s 281 in 2001, Rahul Dravid’s 233 in 2003/04, Sachin Tendulkar’s 35th test century in 2005, Anil Kumble’s 600th test wicket in 2008, Sachin Tendulkar crossing the 15,000 run mark in 2014 – some magnificent achievements for team India since the 70s.

The Lord’s in England played host to India’s first ever test match on June 25, 1932 vs England, a match India lost by 158 runs. It took India 20 years to register its first ever test win (vs England, 1952) and 36 years to register its first ever overseas series win (New Zealand, 1967/68).

While India’s domestic competitions were marked by incredible run making feats (Vijay Merchant vs Vijay Hazare being the most prominent), things were a lot different on the international stage.

The 1983 World Cup triumph changed things and India started to weigh itself favourably against all opposition, and dispel the oft-quoted joke that its batsmen had to be reminded that test matches were not timeless (justifiably so, India’s batsmen scored at 2.40 runs per over up until 1971, better only than Pakistan and New Zealand).

Decade-wise team performance overview

Of the 499 test matches that India has played so far, it has won 129, lost 157, drawn 212 and tied 1. India’s W/L ratio of 0.822 fifth worst in Test history (even below Sri Lanka). While this paints a fairly ordinary picture, it’s important to consider that of the 10 Indian cricketers who have played 100 test matches or more, 7 made their debut after 1989.

The emergence of a prolific crop of cricketers has helped considerably improve the performance stats of Indian cricket since then; it’s W/ ratio has been the third best since both the 1990s and the 2000s, after Australia and South Africa respectively. Also, India has won 86 out of its 129 victories from 1990 onwards. 

 Table 1: Decade-wise Performance Summary

Decade  

Matches

Won

Lost

Tied

Drawn

W/L Ratio

1930s

7

0

5

0

2

0.000

1940s

13

0

6

0

7

0.000

1950s

44

6

 17

0

21

0.353

1960s

52

9

21

0

22

0.429

1970s

64

17

19

0

28

0.895

1980s

81

11

21

1

48

0.524

1990s

69

18

20

0

31

0.900

2000s

103

40

27

0

36

1.481

2010s

66

28

21

0

17

1.333

Total

499

129

157

1

212

0.822

Looking at India’s performance on a decade-wise basis provides interesting insight into its performance over the years. Perhaps the most intriguing stat is India’s low W/L ratio in the 1990s, a decade which saw it emerging as the most formidable team to beat at home, but what offsets India’s unbelievable W/L ratio at home (3.4) is its dismal performance in away games (W.L Ratio: 0.07).

Since 2000, the most fulfilling period of Indian cricket when, under Saurav Ganguly’s captaincy, India began to dominate world cricket on the back of both its performance and commerce. The 2000s have also been the only decade where India’s overseas W/L ratio has been greater than or equal to 1.

Table 2: Performance Summary (Home Matches)

Team/Decade

1930s

1940s

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

Played

3

5

25

36

34

42

30

47

26

Won

0

0

6

6

11

8

17

21

18

Lost

2

1

8

8

7

9

5

8

3

Drawn

1

4

11

22

16

24

8

18

5

W/L Ratio

0.00

0.00

0.75

0.75

1.57

0.89

3.40

2.63

6.00

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