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Opinion: Dissecting Ravi Shastri's Tall Claim Regarding Team India's Overseas Test Run

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England & India Net Sessions
England & India Net Sessions

Another overseas series which held a lot of promise for Team India got over, and despite a valiant fight put up by the R-R duo on the final day, England comfortably got over the line with a 118-run victory and finished the series with an emphatic 4-1 scoreline.

Both Rahul and Rishabh scored swashbuckling centuries, one saving his test career and the other making his, in the process respectively, but unfortunately, that was too little too late. 

A lot of heads were on the line, with consistently inconsistent performances and a few even fell by the side midway through the series like the exclusion of Murali Vijay from the squad and the likes of Dhawan and Pujara being dropped.

The question then arises on what Head Coach Ravi Shastri spoke about, and the one particular tall claim he made on the eve of the fifth and final test at The Oval after losing the series, in an attempt to defend his boys. I quote what he said at that point:

“Nothing to take away (from England), the endeavour of this team is to travel well, compete and win. If you look at the last three years, we have won nine matches overseas and three series. I can’t see any other Indian team in the last 15-20 years that has had the same run in such a short time, and you have had some great players playing in those series.”

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Head Coach Ravi Shastri Addressing The Press

Let us now judge the merit of this statement with some data from the period being talked about.

The last 15-20 years effectively means the past Indian teams’ performances since the turn of the century under the captaincies of namely Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and M.S. Dhoni in that chronological order.

Indian Captains' Overseas Test Records In This Century

When you look at the plain numbers depicting the Indian captains' overseas victories, yes, Virat is ahead of others in terms of win percentage, but a closer qualitative look at the reason behind such high winning percentage tells another story.

The supposedly dream overseas run of the current Indian team under the captaincy of Virat Kohli in the last 3 years consists of the following three series, two of them in the subcontinent itself under a below-par Sri Lankan side and one in West Indies in between which is no more considered as the acid test of cricketing nations worldwide with the new catchword when it comes to challenging venues outside subcontinent being called SANE (South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and England).

So the 9 test matches and 3 overseas test series victories, Shastri is boasting about, all came against below average Sri Lankan and West Indies sides who are no longer considered the elites of Test Cricket.

What Indian teams achieved overseas under Ganguly, Dravid and even Kumble’s captaincy were remarkably brave performances against the so-called elites of Test Cricket in their own dens featuring considerably stronger teams than the current lot. All through this period, the major cricketing nations all had potent teams with established world-class cricketers and were leaps and bounds ahead of the respective current national sides.

Ganguly drew with Steve Waugh's Australia in Australia and came back victorious from the Pakistani soil, a feat etched in the folklores of Indian cricket.

Dravid had historic series wins in England and West Indies and led the first ever Indian team to win a test in South Africa.

Kumble won and drew tests in Australia, what could have been another historic tour down under, if not for a string of umpiring debacles in the crucial Sydney Test, a match and series India could have won otherwise.

Even Dhoni, who has a relatively poor overseas record, led India to a historic test series victory in the alien Kiwi conditions.

Yes, India under Kohli has won in Sri Lanka a Test series after a long time since last in 1993, but have a look at the fledgling Sri Lankan side these days when compared to the names of Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Muralitharan, Vaas, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, the earlier Indian teams had to contend with. Even the West Indian sides featuring the likes of Hooper, Lara, Chanderpaul, Sarwan, Dillon had far more experience and prowess than the Carribean side Kohli’s men dealt with.

Even from a statistical point of view, Mr Shastri is factually incorrect as the Indian team under Rahul Dravid did win three overseas series in a period of three years, namely in West Indies in 2006, in Bangladesh in 2007 and in England in 2007.

When you undermine the previous greats in order to defend your own position, it does not speak highly of you in the position you are holding, particularly when you have followed the career of all these past greats and their teams’ performances closely from the commentary box.

It is hereby hoped that any further talks of comparison with past great Indian teams would be done with great measure and from a wider perspective.

It is to be noted here that Shastri in a recent interview to a regional daily has reiterated his stand and at the same time clarified that he meant no disrespect to the former legends and said that his quote was interpreted out of context, and credited Dravid for having success close to that of the current team, but the damage was already done.

Both Kohli and Shastri tried to put up a bold face at various stages of the series, to keep the morale among the team high, but as Sourav Ganguly has pointed out, all who represented India in the current and previous squads wish well for the team’s performances and an unfair and somewhat unfounded comparison by the current coach in the face of criticism is understandably not well received at many quarters.

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