Virat Kohli and his band of bearded men might have suffered an ignominious whitewash in the test series in New Zealand, but they remain in the fray as the best touring side that India has produced in the last three decades. Just about. They have compiled this record more on the strength of their bowling, rather than their batting, which has demonstrated a familiar fragility at key moments.

Since 1990, four players have had a decent run as Indian captain in tests: in chronological order, Mohammad Azharuddin, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni and, now, Virat Kohli. Each has also led sides to all four SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia), which are sterner cricketing examinations for all touring teams.

Among the four captains, Virat Kohli has the record for the highest winning percentage in all overseas tests (45%), followed by Ganguly (39%). Even in SENA countries, the pecking order remains the same. However, the winning percentage for both captains in SENA countries (25% and 17%, respectively) dips significantly compared to their overall away records.

One difference in approach between the two captains has been playing for the draw. With Kohli’s sides, the result in away matches has usually been a binary: win or lose. By comparison, Ganguly’s sides created fewer wins than Kohli’s, but they drew more matches. As a result, in SENA countries, while Kohli has a win/draw percentage of 38%, the same for Ganguly’s sides is 58%. In other words, even in the most difficult of conditions, Ganguly’s side was not losing in three out of five matches.

MS Dhoni, under whom the Indian test side enjoyed 21 months at the pinnacle of test rankings, has an away win percentage of just 20%, almost half that of Ganguly. In fairness, Dhoni’s sides enjoyed fewer easier tours. Of the 30 matches that Dhoni captained in, 23 were in the four SENA countries—the highest share among these four captains.

At an overall level, the Indian away performance has shown small crests and big troughs. There was a barren period under Azharuddin when India did not register even a single win out of 21 tests in SENA countries. Under Ganguly, India found new grit and expression abroad.

A combination of improvement in performance and commercial value ensured that India embarked on more plum tours to SENA countries under Dhoni. However, success was elusive. Subsequently, under Kohli, India has remained a top draw for a touring side, and it has won more than it did under Dhoni, including a first-ever series win in Australia last year.

The foundation for India’s improvement in away tests, compared to the 1990s, flowed a lot through the batting department. This was especially true of Ganguly’s sides, which comprised batting greats such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag.

Of the four captains, it’s only under Ganguly that India’s batting average of top- and middle-order batsmen (positions 1 to 7) exceeded 40 in all tests played overseas as well as those played in SENA countries. Also, it’s only Ganguly’s teams whose batting average in SENA countries exceeded their overall away batting average.

The additional runs contributed to Ganguly’s teams having greater margin, be it to chase a win or to hold on for a draw. On an overall away basis, Kohli’s teams are behind only Ganguly’s. But in SENA countries, Kohli’s sides have the lowest average of all four captains; and they also see the biggest drop off from their overall away batting average, of about 6 runs per wicket.

One part of batting overseas is occupying the crease. In that aspect, Ganguly’s teams again demonstrate greater resilience than the other three sets. Those sides were the only ones where positions 1 to 7 averaged above 80 balls per wicket in away matches, both on an overall basis and in the SENA set. Kohli’s follow with an average of 73 balls per wicket on an overall basis, but this fall precipitously to 64 balls against SENA countries.

Despite their inherent batting weaknesses, if Kohli’s sides still have a better overseas winning record than the other three, a lot has to do with their bowling firepower. Overseas, India was always a decent bowling unit. It has become progressively better and now has a formidable pace bowling stock. The average number of balls taken per wicket—or, bowling strike rate—by Indian bowlers has improved consistently, from 92 under Azharuddin to 53 under Kohli .

For now, Kohli’s teams are holding on to their mantle of being the most successful Indian test side overseas. But if tours like New Zealand continue that position may not hold.

howindialives.com is a database and search engine for public data

Close
×
My Reads Logout