7 great cricketers who struggled in Tests in India

Muralitharan and Warne struggled against an Indian batting lineup featuring Tendulkar on Indian soil
Muralitharan and Warne struggled against an Indian batting lineup featuring Tendulkar on Indian soil

India now find themselves at the top of the ICC's Test ranking, having won 12 of their last 14 Test series. The current Indian team has the depth and diversity to challenge in countries where India has traditionally struggled, as is shown by their recent series win in Australia, and the fact they won Tests in Australia, South Africa, and England in 2018 alone.

But the fact remains that India are at their strongest when playing at home. Part of the reason India's performance against the aforementioned nations are impressive is that the conditions in cricket playing countries outside of Asia are very different. The inverse is also true, as teams from countries where the pitches generally favor pace, bounce and swing find it difficult to adapt to the drier, more spin friendly pitches of India.

Yet this only gives a partial explanation for why India is such a difficult destination for touring teams, as the last three away sides to win a series in India all come from outside of Asia.

Perhaps this is due to India having been the first Asian nation to be given Test playing status. India played their first Test in 1932, and by the time Pakistan would join them as the second Asian team in 1952, India had already become an established side.

It is easy to forget that Sri Lanka only played their first Test in 1982, and Bangladesh in 2000. Subsequently, for much of India's cricketing history, the teams that have been the best equipped to win in India have been the ones least equipped for the conditions.

These are not just conditions India are used to, but the conditions they have mastered. This mastery first became apparent in the 1960s and 1970s where India began to produce a litany of fantastic spin-bowlers.

Sir Vivian Richards once said he was "A nervous wreck," when he went to India and had to face the spin quarter of Bishan Bedi Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkatraghavan.

It is particularly telling that these words come from Richards, a man whose demeanor suggested absolute confidence, but also by the fact that Richards actually had a decent average in India. Of all the visiting players, only Derek Underwood played more Tests in India than Viv Richards' 15. Yet Richards managed an of average of 45.42 in India, which is certainly respectable even if it is below his career average.

But in the decades to come it would often be the away teams bowlers that would carry the anxiety, as in the 1990s and 2000s the Indian side was frequently filled with some truly great batsmen. This meant that spin-bowlers no longer enjoyed touring India as the once had, because while the conditions may have suited them, they were playing against exceptional batsmen who had honed their techniques in these conditions.

#7 Shane Warne

Shane Warne
Shane Warne

Shane Warne was not only a great bowler for the sheer number of wickets he took and the often incredible manner in which he took them, but also for his ability to succeed in a variety of conditions.

Warne played in 11 different countries throughout his Test cricketing career and averaged below 30 in all but two of them. These two countries were the West Indies, where he averaged 39.65, and India, where his average was an underwhelming 43.12.

This is particularly surprising as Warne regarded was one of the best spin bowlers in the world by the time he played his first series in India. Furthermore, the tour took place in 1998, just after the Australian summer where Warne had been in fine form, taking 39 wickets in six games against New Zealand and South Africa.

By this stage, Australia hadn't won in India since 1969, and Warne seemed to many to be the key they needed to break this drought. He started the series well. In the first innings of the first Test, he took 4/85 which included the vital wickets of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Azharuddin.

In the second innings, Warne would dismiss Dravid once more. But India would pile on the runs, as Tendulkar made a brilliant century, and Warne ended with the innings with figures of 1/122.

Warne struggled greatly through the rest of the tour, and in three games he only managed 10 wickets at an average of 54. Making his statistics look all the more damning was that his rival leg-spinner, Anil Kumble, had a brilliant series, ending with 23 wickets at just 18.09.

A little under three years on and Warne's second tour of India told a rather similar story. Once again Warne started well, with four wickets in his first innings, but once again he'd leave only taking 10 in three matches with an average of over 50.

In this series, Warne also suffered through Dravid and Laxman's incredible 374 run partnership in Kolkata. Here Warne was helpless in the face of history, as he ended the innings with 1/152. Further adding salt into the wounds was that Warne was once more eclipsed by his rival spinner, as Harbhajan Singh had one of the most remarkable series a bowler has ever had, taking 32 wickets in just three tests.

Warne's third and final tour of India bore happier results, as Australia won their first series in India since 1969, and Warne took his first and only five wicket-haul in the country. His series average of 30.07 was still far from brilliant, but considering the quality of batsmen he faced it was acceptable.

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Edited by Ram Kumar
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