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England vs India: Team India's First Test Blues

The curse of losing the first test of an overseas series once again struck Team India after the 196 run thumping they received at the hands of England at Lord’s. This now means that India will have to play catch up cricket for the remainder of the series and must win at least two of the next three matches to avoid a series defeat. Although, if their aim is more humble- to retain their number 1 ranking – all they need to do is avoid a series loss by a two test margin – but a team which has so many stalwarts will surely have greater aspirations.

This is not the first time that India has lost the first test of an away series. It has been a familiar story for a long time now. The crammed scheduling of tours by the BCCI have meant that most Indian teams have arrived on foreign lands just days before the start of the first test, giving them either none or at most one warm up game. And most of the times, this has resulted in players failing to acclimatize to the unfamiliar conditions, and thus surrendering meekly in the very first game of the series.

Sachin walks back after being dismissed on the final day of the Lord's Test. England won the first test by 196 runs.

Since the beginning of 2000, India has played 18 overseas series (excluding the ones in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh). They’ve lost the first Test eight times and won only thrice. This habit became more frequent over the last four years during which India have lost the series opener five times (including the Lords test) – against Australia in 2007, against Sri Lanka in 2008 and 2010, and against South Africa late last year. They would have nearly lost their first test during their previous tour toEngland in 2007, but escaped by a hair’s breath.

The only glorious exceptions was the tour to New Zealand in 2009 and the recent tour to the West Indies, where, India won the first Test on both the occasions, and then went on to draw the next two to win the series. They’d won the first Test on their tour to South Africa in 2006-07, but on that tour India slipped in the next two matches, losing both of them and the series.

Often when a team loses the first test of a series, they generally lag behind the eight ball and try and make up the damage through the remainder of the series. But inIndia’s case, it’s totally a different story. As the table below indicates, India’s results tend to go up after the first test – they have won 4 out of their 18 first tests- a winning percentage of 21%, but in subsequent matches, the percentage rises to 29%, where they have won 11 out of the 39 matches.

India, in first Tests and other Tests, overseas since 2000

 

       Matches      Won   LostDrawn
First Tests18495
Other Tests39111216

On the eight previous occasions when India have lost the first Test of an away series since 2000, only thrice have they come back to level the series – in England in 2002, in Sri Lanka as well as in South Africa in 2010.

The records prove that India start poorly in an away series but improve as the series progresses. So imagine, if they had prepared well before the tour, the results would have been totally different. All this once again comes down to improper scheduling of tours by the BCCI. So if ever they wanted to get some inspiration from somewhere, they should look at the team which just defeated them, England.

England planned their Ashes tour to Australia in 2010-11 with three tough practice matches which were spread over a month to get all their players ready for the main battle. They played with their top players in all three matches to get their combinations in place and to make sure that all the players were fully accustomed to the conditions before the first test.The results were their to be seen as England ended up winning the series 3-1.

In comparison, the BCCI crammed in one three-day practice game against Somerset as preparation for such a high voltage series against England. No wonder, India lost the Lord’s test without much of a fight. Lets hope that this loss can ring some bells into the ears of the BCCI and they could plan future tours in a better manner.

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