After going down by 73 runs in the first match of their Test Series in South Africa, India once again demonstrated an inability to perform outside of the sub-continent. Despite being in the game until the final hour, they were unable to chase down a gettable total of 208 on what was admittedly a tough pitch.
The loss paints a familiar tale for Indian fans, who have for years become accustomed to their side being virtually unbeatable at home, but unable to win away.
India have won their past nine series, an undoubtedly impressive feat. In this time, they have lost just two games, one to Australia in early 2016, and one to Sri Lanka back in 2015. Incredibly, these are the only two games they have lost since 2014. Clearly they are a fantastic cricket side, but a further look at these results reveals a schedule which has been heavily tailored towards home games.
Of their past nine series, all of which they have won, seven have been played in India. The two which weren’t were played in Sri Lanka, the country which probably bears the most resemblance to India in terms of the pitches and the climate offered up for international cricket games.
Prior to this stretch of series’ wins, the Indian cricket team had a spate of away test series – all of which they lost. In 2014/15 they went down 0-2 in Australia, and months before that they lost 1-3 in England. A series early they lost 0-1 in a two match Test series in New Zealand, and had the same result in South Africa prior to that.
This trend has not been unique to the past couple of years though. Let’s go back to 2011/2012, a stretch which they kicked off with a 4-0 win over England, unsurprisingly at home. They followed that by hosting the West Indies in a three game series, which they comfortably won 2-0. Seemingly in good touch, they then travelled to Australia, where they were comprehensively beaten 4-0 in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
In the past five years, India boast the remarkable record of 20 wins, five draws and just one loss at home. Away from home, they have the much less impressive record of eight wins, eight draws and nine losses. This, however, includes a record of 5-1-1 in other sub-continental countries (Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), as well as a 2-0 series win in West Indies against a team which places very little emphasis on Test cricket.
Away from conditions with which they were familiar, and against decent Test cricket teams, their record in the past five years is woeful. In fourteen games in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England, they have won just once, when they beat England by 95 runs at Lords in 2014. The other games have been split in six draws and eight losses.
Clearly there are reasons for this. Conditions on the sub-continent vary greatly from in other parts of the world, and it is completely understandable that they would therefore struggle playing on pitches to which they are not accustomed. Furthermore, the home-heavy nature of their schedule does not provide them with adequate practice in such conditions. Prior to this series in South Africa, 27 of their past 31 Tests had been played in either India, Sri Lanka, or Bangladesh.
India are a fantastic Test side, and thoroughly deserve their ranking as the world’s number one team. In order to stamp themselves as a historically successful team, however, they need to find away to achieve results away from home. The three test series against South Africa, in which they are now down 0-1, would be a great place to start.