India lead the Test series at home against England by 1-0 after 2 matches. After their dominating display against New Zealand in the 3-Test series prior to this, most pundits were predicting a 5-0 result in favour of the home team, but England have proven far more resilient than people expected them to be.
Another thing that caught the attention of all analysts and fans was that the wickets produced for these 2 Tests were not dust-bowls by any means. There were no results in 2-2.5 days; the first Test was a draw over the full 5 days and the second saw India win after lunch on day 5. England showed great fight in both Tests but India still got the better of them to take an early lead in the series.
This raised a pertinent question again: “Do India need rank turners to win Tests at home?”
An Indian Test series win at home is almost always followed by this question. There is no doubt that this takes away some sheen from the achievements of the team that plays hard to win consistently at home against the top Test teams in the world, doesn’t it?
But is it fair to say that India have been a dominant team at home ONLY because they have always played on surfaces that are rank turners? Let’s try and analyse.
To get to the details in the matter, we will see India’s record in Test cricket at home in the last 7 years, that is, from 01 January 2010 till now:
A win/loss ratio of over 7 across 31 Tests shows that India have indeed been a force when it comes to playing at home. Losing just 3 Tests in almost 7 years is no mean feat.
Now, looking at these numbers series by series:
Series by series results:
We see that India have lost just 1 Test series at home since January 2010 and have drawn another. Not counting the ongoing Test series, they have won 80% of the series at home in these last 7 years.
These are India’s overall numbers at home in the selected period, but where does this show that these wins have not always come on spinning pitches? For that, let’s see some other stats.
Most analysts and fans will agree that in India, the best time to bat is on Day 1 and partly on Day 2 as the pitch is at its best and the deterioration hasn’t begun. The spinners are at their least effective on Days 1 and 2 and as the match progresses, their impact on proceeding becomes larger and larger. Hence, the toss plays a huge role.
Going by this, let’s see India’s numbers in these 31 Tests when they have won the toss and when they have lost it:
Impact of the toss:
Won the toss:
Lost the toss:
The numbers tell a big story. India have lost the toss in slightly more than 50% of the matches, and in all these 16 matches that we see above, the team winning the toss has batted first. Of the 15 times that India won the toss, they batted 13 times and bowled twice, so a total of 18 out of the 31 times, the visiting team got a chance to bat on Day 1.
As the results tell us, despite the opposition batting when the pitch is at its best, India have won 11 and lost just 1 Test. Even if there is help in the pitch for the spinners, it is the least on Day 1 and Indian spinners have had to bowl in such cases in almost 60% of India’s home Tests in the last 7 years. Even then, the results have been overwhelmingly favourable for the team.
A “rank turner” would mean that there is an unusual amount of assistance for the spin bowlers, run scoring is immensely difficult and that would apply to both teams. All international teams have quality spinners in their line-up these days and they tend to pack their squads with them when they travel to India. So one can safely assume that if the pitches are rank-turners, the scores would be consistently low in the Test matches played, by both teams?
To see if this holds true, let’s see Team India’s overall batting numbers in all innings played by them in these 31 Tests. This has been segregated by innings in which they scored more than 300 and the ones in which they scored less than 300.
|Total Innings||Score > 300||Score < 300||Highest Score|
As the stats show, India have scored more than 300 in 27 of the 53 innings they have played in these 31 Tests, which means in more than 50% of the times they have batted. This must be noted here that these 27 innings include all 4 innings, even the third and fourth, and there have been scores of more than 300 in such innings too. Now, pitches where a team scores above 300 more than half the no. of times they play can’t be called “Rank-turners”, can they?
Let’s now see the matches out of these 31 where the Indian team scored more than 500 runs in the match across the 2 innings:
|Matches||Match Total > 500||Match Total < 500||Highest Match Total|
21 of the 31 matches have seen India score more than 500 runs in the match; that is, 70% of the times! Again, a rank-turner won’t see a team amass over 500 in a match. It would happen rarely at best and the team will have to play out of its skin to do it, but in India, it’s happened consistently in the last 7 years.
These were batting numbers mainly pertaining to the Indian team, but what about the visiting batsmen who have usually found it tough to score on such pitches? Let’s see their numbers too in the 18 Tests where they have batted first:
Opposition batting first:
|Total Matches||First Innings > 300||First Innings < 300||Highest Score|
The table tells us that in over 60% of the matches where the opposition has batted first, they have gone on to score more than 300 in their first innings. In fact, many of these 11 have been in excess of 400. By definition, a rank-turner offers spinners great help from the first session on Day 1 and life becomes hell for batsmen, especially the visiting ones. But the numbers clearly tell that most of the pitches that Tests have been played on in these last 7 years have by no means been such rank-turners.
Stats never lie as they are accumulated from the performances given by teams and players on the ground, aren’t they? Stats quite clearly reveal that India haven’t been playing on pitches unfairly conducive to spin. True, the pitches help spin more than pace but that has always been the nature of pitches in the sub-continent. We don’t expect a pitch to turn square on Day 1 at Headingley or Wellington, do we?
A pitch “assisting” spinners is not the same as a “rank-turner”. A rank-turner can make a part-timer look unplayable; who can forget Michael Clarke’s 6 for 9 in Mumbai in 2004, on a pitch where India defended 106 in the 4th innings and the match was over in less than 2.5 days? That was a rank-turner, but most pitches aren’t.
Team India’s numbers have been super-impressive in this 7 year period, and they have been this way on good pitches and not ones that offer undue advantage. The stats above tell us that they have won despite losing the toss, the opposition scoring big in the first innings, and against most top oppositions in the world without the need to play on rank-turners.
India don’t need rank-turners to win Tests at home; they have never needed them. The team is no. 1 in Tests because of their ability and Test match temperament, and it is these traits that will take them further as a top Test team and not helpful pitches.