Last month, Sri Lanka did something that no Asian side had done: Win a Test series in South Africa. At one level, these are chapters in the adventure book of travelling teams. At a converse level, these symbolise blows on the bastion that is the home advantage.
Home advantage is a factor in any sport. An amalgam of pitches, weather and crowds makes it an even greater factor in cricket, resulting in sides losing less than they otherwise do.
In the past 10 years, all nine prominent Test-playing nations, including Bangladesh and West Indies, have either won or drawn at least half the Test matches and series they have played at home. The picture is similar in one-day internationals (ODIs). And, no side has been better at this than India, notwithstanding its loss in the ongoing T20 series to Australia.
India’s home record in the past 10 years in Tests and ODIs played on a bilateral series format is stellar. Of the 17 Test series played by India during this period, it has won 15, losing one and drawing one. That’s a winning record of 88% and a winning/drawing record of 94%. The next best side on those counts is England, with 75% and 90%, respectively.
They are followed by the two sides that were the first to raise the home bar to impregnable levels: Australia and South Africa.
Similarly, in ODIs over this 10-year period, India has won 17 of its home series, while losing three, for a winning record of 85%.
The next best are South Africa with 76% and England at 68% (chart 1).
An interesting facet of India’s home performance during this period, when it has been helmed first by M. S. Dhoni and then by Virat Kohli, is its focus on winning a series than individual matches.
It has won 71% of its Tests, but won 88% of its Test series—or a positive differential of 17 percentage points.
In ODIs, where the possibility of a no result is less than Tests, this is even starker. India has won 62% of its home ODIs, but won 85% of its home ODI series—or a positive differential of 23 percentage points. In other words, when a match has mattered more, India has delivered.
No other side comes close, with the next best being England—a positive differential of 13 percentage points in Tests and 12 percentage points in ODIs.
Even when one breaks down home records by the quality of opposition, India distinguishes itself. We looked at home performance of all nine teams against the four sides that have led world cricket during this period: India, Australia, South Africa and England.
In Tests, India has the best record, winning 68% of its matches against the three remaining sides and drawing another 16%.
In terms of series, India has a win-loss-draw record of 3-0-0 against Australia, 1-1-0 against England and 1-0-1 against South Africa.
In ODIs, India has a winning percentage in individual matches of 56%, which is second only to Australia’s 64% and which could have been higher if it wasn’t for 12% of its matches being abandoned due to rain. It has crafted a series record of 3-1 against Australia, 3-0 against England and 1-1 against South Africa (chart 2).
A comparison over the previous decade shows that among the four leading sides, India and England have registered a marked uptick in performance. India’s winning record has increased from 45% to 69% in Test matches, and from 55% to 70% in ODIs.
South Africa has steadily inched up in Tests, while Australia, depleted by key batsmen losses following a ball-tampering ban, has been slipping from the lofty standards set by the formidable all-round sides captained by Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting (chart 3).
In 2001, Waugh’s side came to India for a three-match series on a winning streak of 15 Test matches—the most ever then—and a mission to beat India in India.
Steve Waugh called it “the final frontier". In the first Test, Australia extended that streak to 16. It lost the next two, halting its winning run and losing the series.
In the home records that India is running up these days in Tests and ODIs, home is becoming a frontier of sorts.
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