How Long Can India Hold On to The Top Spot in Test Cricket


India were outclassed by the Kiwis in the second test match. The visitors were beaten by a dominant New Zealand team, losing the match by seven wickets. Many consider this as an improvement considering how they conceded defeat in the first match by 10 wickets.

The heavy losses point to a rather disturbing fact about the Indian cricket team. India and most certainly Kohli’s team are not the best travellers in red-ball cricket. Their overseas record is abysmal and the team has folded against quality oppositions.

There is no doubt that the work ethic displayed by the Indian captain and his team mates is considerably greater than the previous iterations of the team. The boys in blue showed tremendous skill and discipline to reach the top of the test rankings.

However, while the hard work and discipline has led to wins in their home grounds, the same could not be said for encounters overseas.

While the naysayers will be quick to defend the team, the facts do not lie. India has suffered heavy losses at the hands of South Africa in 2017 – 2018. They were on the receiving end of a 2-1 series defeat.

The matches against England in 2018 proved to be even worse with India managing just one win from five matches (4-1). The series against England has been followed by a 2-0 drubbing at the hands of the Kiwis. Ravi Shastri’s claim that the current Indian team are one of the best travellers is certainly not true.

The one consolation that can be taken from their travels abroad was their historic series triumph in Australia in 2018-19. Despite this win, the batsmen have generally looked uneasy against quality bowling.

The likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and England’s Stuart Broad and James Anderson have frequently troubled the Indian batsmen.This is despite having phenomenal players in their squad including Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

If you are still in doubt about the track record of the Indian team, allow to conduct a simple comparison between the current team and past greats. Let’s start off the with West Indies.

WEST INDIES | Unstoppable Force from 70’s to Early 90’s

Ask any of the past greats to name their most feared opposition during the seventies and you are likely to get just one name – West Indies.

Clive Lloyd was instrumental in pushing the West Indies into a new era of domination. Llyod had assembled what can be regarded as the most feared outfit in the 70’s.

To put some numbers behind this claim, the West Indies did not lose a Test series between 1981 and 1995. The West Indies remained unbeaten in 29 Test series! They recorded 20 wins and 9 draws which is still the world record in the traditional format

AUSTRALIA | Team from Down Under Dethrone the WINDIES

As per the golden rule, what goes up must come down and that was true for the West Indies as well. By the time the 90’s came around, the world experienced a power shift in test cricket. Windies were beginning to lose their dominant position with a new contender to the throne was emerging.

Mark Taylor was more than happy to set up to the plate and began Australia’s rise in test cricket. Between a period of 1994-5 and 2005, the Aussies won a total of 30 Test series. They conceded defeat in only 5 and drew 3. Four of the five defeats had come at the hands of India (3) and Sri Lanka (1).

They dominated arch rivals England, winning the Ashes 5 times in a row. India were no match against the might Aussies as they defeated the boys in blue, winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy twice.

Their neighbours, New Zealand were no match for them either and Australia won the Trans-Tasman Trophy 9 times.

Their unbeaten streak extends from 2001 to 2004-05, covering 16 series. This is the second longest streak after the 29 series won by the Windies. Still not convinced that they are a better side than our boys in blue?

Well how about this little nugget, Australia held on to the number one sport in test rankings for a record 74 months amassing a record rating for 143 points.

South Africa | A Young Captain Joins the Party

Master blaster, Graeme Smith was only 22 years of age when he was given the test captaincy. Age it seemed was irrelevant to Smith who went to equal the third-longest unbeaten streak in Test history with 14 series. The wins were notched up between 2009-10 to 2013-14.

With a total of 8 wins, three were recorded at home against difficult opponents including Sri Lanka, Pakistan and New Zealand.

The Proteas were hungry for success and recorded the remainder of their wins overseas against England, New Zealand and Australia.

In the process of recording these impressive wins, South Africa were also successful in knocking Australia off the top spot in the test rankings. They remained on position numero uno for 21 months with 135 points, the second most by any team after the Aussies.

INDIA | Mr Cool Decides to Go After the Crown

It was around 2009 that India started to emerge as the contenders for the top spot. Led by M S Dhoni and coached by Gary Kirsten, India started their journey by winning test series at home.

From 2008-9, to 2011, India remained unbeaten for 11 series. They were rewarded as they climbed to the top of the rankings and stayed there for nearly two years (21 months)

While the 11 wins sound impressive, if you look closer to the stats you will see that six of those wins came on home soil, two were recorded in the sub-continent against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The remainder of the wins came against South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies.

The wins were also offset by heavy losses against England (5-0) and Australia (4-0) in 2011- 2012.

INDIA | An Injection of Fresh Blood into The Team

While Dhoni proved to be India’s most successful test captain, it was evident that he was playing with a side jam packed with ageing players. There was only way to go for M S Dhoni and that was to retire and hand over the reins to Virat Kohli.

Kohli brought in several fresh faces creating that was full of energy and hungry for success. of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were added to form the backbone of the batting line up. Ishant Sharma became the leader of the pace attack while Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin formed the spin duo.

The new captain and the revamp of the Indian side proved to be highly successful with India winning 33 of their 55 tests. A 2-0 whitewash of the West Indies last year made Kohli the most successful Indian test captain ever.

India remained unbeaten between 2015 and 2018 with nine consecutive test series’ wins. If we dig deeper into the stats, six out of those nine wins were achieved on home ground.

India were able to defeat tough opponents including Bangladesh, New Zealand, England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia.

Fans would argue that Kohli is India’s best captain ever. The stats surely seem to indicate so.

However, their latest defeat to the Kiwis once again shows how their inability to win away games. The boys in blue lacked aggression which led to heavy losses in both tests.

They face Australia later this year and must work hard if they are to win the Border-Gavaskar series.

This series will be particularly crucial as they will have to face the Three Musketeers – Steve Smith, David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne.

The time has come for India to prove to the naysayers that they have what it takes to win test matches abroad.

The excuses of pitches, conditions and injuries are no longer acceptable if India are to maintain their standing as the number one side in test cricket.

Title: How Long Can India Hold On to The Top Spot in Test Cricket

Posted On: 26/03/2020

Author: Tony Willets