PARTAB RAMCHAND | 11 JANUARY, 2019
The team played 43 Tests from 1932-68 before registering its first away victory
Winning at home is one thing, winning away quite another. Perhaps every team has this problem, bar the really great squads in history – such as the West Indians of the 80s and early 90s, who did not lose a series anywhere for nearly 15 years.
But few teams have had such a mixed record in this regard as India. Among the teams that have played over 400 Tests India’s overall record is probably the worst. In their record away, however, there is little doubt that there has been a marked improvement in the 21st century.
In the formative years, even as India performed creditably at home they repeatedly came a cropper in away Tests. The nadir came in the 1959-1968 phase when India lost 17 successive Tests, in England, Australia and the West Indies. In fact the team played 43 Tests – in England, Australia, the West Indies and Pakistan, from 1932 to 1968 – before registering their first away victory in New Zealand in 1968.
The three victories in New Zealand in that series were India's only away wins in the 60s. Things improved in the 70s with six away triumphs: two in the West Indies, one apiece in England and New Zealand, and two in Australia.
In the next two decades their record away dipped again; in the 80s India notched up only three victories on foreign soil, two in England one in Australia, and in the 90s slid further with only win away, that too in the subcontinent, in Sri Lanka.
The new millennium brought about a sense of self belief in Indian teams that had not been seen before. In the first decade victories were won in England, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan (where they had not won for almost half a century), New Zealand, the West Indies, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh – in short all over the cricketing world.
Not surprisingly, at the end of the decade India for the first time were at No.1 in the ICC rankings. And as we approach the end of the second decade of the new millennium, India again hold that exalted status.
No team can occupy the No.1 slot without having a good away record. Maintaining the impressive performance of their immediate predecessors, Indian teams have again won at least one Test in every country except New Zealand, while they did not play in Pakistan or Zimbabwe.
Certainly the perception that India are not good travellers has changed in the 21st century, as the record underlines, even if they suffered the ignominy of losing eight Tests in a row in England and Australia in 2011-2012. Against that, they have registered many more wins, besides notching up series victories in every country save one.
Their latest triumph in Australia – winning a series there for the first time in 71 years – will go a long way in furthering the side's self belief, and now only South Africa, where the Indians have been playing since 1992, beckons as the Final Frontier.
Surely it's only a matter of time before even this bastion falls.