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Why can't India win Test matches abroad?

Analyzing India's performance in Test matches overseas and discussing the causes that plague India.

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature 14 Jan 2015, 21:16 IST
2.16K
India
The Indian Cricket team’s last victory abroad was at Lord’s

The mighty Indian team last won a Test series on foreign soil when they toured the Carribean to face the West Indies, which is but a mere shadow of its past. Since then, it has been a long agonizing wait for the cricket aficionados in India. The “Men in Blue” as they are fondly called have not had many impressive outings outside the subcontinent since the last World Cup. In this article we would look at the possible reasons for our dismal displays abroad:

  • The Opening Slot

  • In three of the four Test series we have played abroad recently, Shikhar Dhawan has averaged below 30. In those 20 innings, he has just 1 century and 2 fifties to his name. Safe to say that our fearless left-hander has been underperforming. He has been caught fishing outside the off stump on numerous occasions and has been uncomfortable hooking. Often his temperament has been called into question. His strike rate on these tours hasn't been great either, compared to his career strike rate of 65 he has struggled to score at 60.

  • This also points out to the fact that he has been trying too hard to belong at the test level and somewhere has given up on his natural game. Taking cues from Virender Sehwag and David Warner who have been successful at the Test level because they haven’t given up on their natural game. To Dhawan’s and India’s respite, a youngster K.L Rahul has stepped up and scored an impressive debut Century in his second Test to stake his claim for the opener’s spot.

  • Rahul’s temperament looks ideally suited to the Test matches as he appears to have the ability to pace his innings and at the same time looks very impressive defensively. He has left the ball well and was not particularly uncomfortable against the short balls. Only time will tell if he is the answer to India’s opening woes. 

  • The Middle Order

  • When Cheteshwar Pujara knocked on the door with an immaculate performance against the English in India, he was hailed as the next Rahul Dravid by the pundits. Such a premature prophecy has, unfortunately, not even come close to materialization. Pujara has been found wanting when it comes to accumulating runs, threading partnerships and playing the anchor role which has often left Virat Kohli with too much to do.

  • Except for his impressive showing in the 2013/14 tour of South Africa where he amassed 280 runs in the two-match Test series, Pujara has struggled on foreign tours since. He has averaged 15, 22 and 33.50 on tours to New Zealand, England and Australia respectively. As a No. 3, he has to do much better than that. Pujara’s failure has cost India dear on occasions as we had nobody to anchor the innings when Kohli was struggling with his own form in England.

  • Thankfully though, Virat Kohli has stepped up for India and has been the standout performer for the Indian team followed by Murali Vijay in the batting department. This is not all as far as the middle order problems go, India has been experimenting with Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina to complete its middle order but these phenomenal ODI batsmen have failed to get going in tests. While Raina has been found wanting outside off, Rohit has not put a great price on his wicket either and has been seen gifting his wicket on numerous occasions.

  • The Bowling Attack

  • Kohli Yadav

    It has almost become customary for the commentators to chide the Indian bowling unit. In order to win Test matches, it is imperative that you have a bowling attack that can notch up 20 wickets. Sadly, that’s precisely what the Indian team lacks. Cricket connoisseurs in India often used to complain about lack of genuine fast bowlers who could steam in and bowl at 90 miles an hour.

  • God seemed to have answered their prayers and now we have bowlers like Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron who can bowl fast but to what benefit? These pacers have failed to keep things tight and build pressure by bowling in an erratic line and length. In the recently concluded series against Australia, perhaps in every Test match, Warner got off to a flyer and our bowlers failed to keep the runs in check , the same scenes used to be repeated when Steve Smith used to come out to bat.

  • “We have primarily used four pacers on this tour and they have looked to attack.” said Ravi Shashtri in an interview to the Press Trust of India. This is a misnomer. They have even been found wanting when it comes to harnessing the conditions well, due to both – lack of experience and skill. Bowling short and drifting down the leg side are extremely basic sins and yet we have not been able to address it.

  • To make matters worse, the Indian bowling attack averages better than only Bangladesh when it comes to bowling with the new ball. This tells us that we struggle to deal with the lower order and finish off oppositions and that is precisely what cost India the first two Test matches in the series against Australia, where the Aussie tail-enders piled nearly 200 runs in the first innings of both the test matches.

  • Lack of county cricket and injuries

  • A very important point that was highlighted by Sourav Ganguly was the fact that our modern day cricketers are devoid of any county experience which makes it fairly difficult for them to make those subtle changes to their technique in a short span of time when they are touring outside of India. I would merely reiterate the fact that our players should make a considerable effort to play a couple of months of county cricket during the off season which would help them gain experience and skill likewise.

  • Due to the commercial commitments and the jam-packed schedule because of the T20 tournaments, such opportunities are rare. At the same time, an important management issue, that cannot be overlooked. is the frequency of injuries to our fast bowlers. It was an appalling sight to see an unfit Bhuvaneshwar Kumar bowling at 115 kmph in the fourth test at Sidney.

  • Umesh and Aaron are frequent absentees due to injuries. What is going wrong then? These pacers are in their mid twenties and are supposed to be playing bulk of the matches but that hasn’t been the case. Are they suffering a burnout? Are we risking shortening their careers due to recurrent injuries? These are grave issues that need adequate attention and this is one area where player management has let us down.

  • Frequent injuries have meant we have been fielding a makeshift eleven pretty often and therefore have not gone in with a consistent bowling line-up in a number of games which leads to confusion of roles and selection dilemmas for the captain.

  • If these causes are looked at and addressed adequately under the new partnership of Virat and Shastri, then maybe we would have a better overseas record five years down the line.

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