Indian cricket can be split into a few distinct phases. Cricket in pre-independent India was a shot against colonialism with CK Nayudu as its poster boy of nationalist pride. The early decades in Independent India was about coping with the umbilical cord of partition, captured by the draw-first mentality which led to a slew of boring draws with the new neighbour. Not many expected (regular) triumphs abroad.
The 70’s saw an attempt to grow out of post-colonial hangover, led by Tiger Pataudi who tried to show that you didn’t have to be timid against the white men. The late 70’s and 80’s was the first real shot of Indian individualism starring a world-class Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, but the 80’s was invested with draws. The Tendulkar decade of 90’s was shadowed by matchfixing and an alarming dependency on one man, and a popular tilt to the ODIs. The 2000’s saw a genuine post-colonial attitude of confidence led by Sourav Ganguly though there weren’t consistent series wins abroad. The present decade is led by ballsy generation, full of attitude but it remains to be seen whether they become conquering travellers or only produce scattered Test wins here and there.
The numbers might not convey the entire story but they reveal several ego-bruising episodes. For a country that played its first Test in 1932, Indian cricket team’s results has been meagre and mediocre.
India has 129 Test wins, a win percentage of just 25.85; only New Zealand has a poorer record among major Test playing nations. It has been a plodding progress of sorts.
One doesn’t have to even reach out for the records of top Test nations like Australia or South Africa as even the neighbours make for a brutal comparison.
Pakistan are just one win short of India’s 129 Test wins but they have played 100 Tests fewer. Even Lanka’s win percentage is better — they have played half the Tests India have but are just 50 wins short of India’s wins.
Drawn Test matches would have been a pleasing result for a new country but India have continued to pile up yawns — drawing a staggering 42.48 per cent of their Tests.
In contrast, Australia has won a imposing 47.20 per cent win record. Teams set out on tours to win series but India’s sunny moments abroad have largely been an odd Test win here and there. They have stitched up 28 Test wins outside subcontinent in 196 Tests.
India haven’t been good enough to consistently win Test series abroad. It’s in that regard the 2000’s seemingly stands out with India winning 8 of 21 series played, but even here, a break down of victories show just one series win against England, under Rahul Dravid’s captaincy, that could be really rated as a top win.
They won three against Bangladesh, and one each against a declining West Indies and an average New Zealand team.
India have largely been reduced to solo performances from a few individuals. Kapil Dev rose to become highest wicket taker in the world, Gavaskar was the first to score 30 hundreds and tally 10,000 runs, Tendulkar strode out to 14,000 but the Indian team has failed to consistently perform as a unit. And to think that the start was so good — CK Nayudu’s blasting 153 in less than two hours against Arthur Gilligan’s side in 1926 at Bombay Gymkhana, a knock that was instrumental in India gaining respect, paving way for Test recognition. However, the subsequent decades has been a blur of mediocre team performances, punctuated by solo sparkles.
PAKISTAN, LANKA BETTER: India have experienced the winning feeling on 129 occasions in the 499 Tests they’ve played so far. Pakistan are just one win short though with 128 but have played 100 Tests fewer and are only now on the cusp of playing their 400th Test. India only have a better win percentage (25.85) than New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Despite entering the fray 50 years after India, Sri Lanka are only 51 wins away from India now and have a much better win-loss record and percentage (31 per cent).
129 wins in 499 Tests for India, Pak: 128 wins in 399 Tests
A BIG YAWN: IT might sound harsh but India have been the most boring team in Test cricket, at least in terms of the high number of drawn encounters they have been a part of. India have more draws in Tests (212 in 499) than Australia (206 in 791) despite having played nearly 300 Tests fewer. For the record, 42 per cent of their Tests have ended in a result that has always left the Americans confused—five days of cricket and no winner or loser at the end of it. In the 1980s in particular, Indian cricket fans were left anaesthised for the lenghtiest periods with 51 out of the 85 Tests they played during that decade finishing in draws. Ironically, the 80s also saw the most exciting Test in Indian history, the tied game against Australia in Madras.
42 per cent of India’s Tests have ended in draws
BANGED UP ABROAD: Only New Zealand and Sri Lanka have struggled more away from the comfort of their home conditions than India overall. And it gets worse when you look at how they’ve gone outside the subcontinent with only 28 wins in 196 Tests. That’s a win percentage of 14.28. Even those wins have been largely spread out. Their only two wins across the border — came on the same tour to Pakistan in 2004. They won their first four out of five Tests in New Zealand. But since 1976 they’ve won a solitary Test out of 19, that victory coming after a 33-year gap in 2009.
14.28 India’s win percentage outside the subcontinent
THE MILLENIAL RISE: It’s safe to say that India’s Test fortunes have soared since the turn of the millenium. Out of their 129 overall wins, 66 have come since 2001—that’s more than half—and they’ve also started winning more often since the start of the noughties. Off their 28 wins outside Asia, 16 have come in this period. India have also scored a majority of their overseas series wins in this period. They have won 11 out of the 31 series in the 21st century, which includes wins in England and New Zealand with three on the trot in the Caribbean. India’s best period in the 20th century was during the 1970s, when they won 18 and lost only 20 Tests.
66 out of India’s 129 wins have come since January 2001
CRAWLING TO A CENTURY: India achieved their 100th Test win incidentally on the same ground they’ll play their 500th on, beating Sri Lanka in Kanpur back in 2009. That was Test No.432. Pakistan, who played their maiden Test in 1952, brought up their century of wins three years prior to that, beating Sri Lanka in Kandy in what was their Test No.320.
432 Tests India took to make it 100 wins. Aus (199), Eng (241), WI (266) and SA (310) got there at least a 100 Tests earlier.
THE LONGEST WAIT: India had to wait 40 years and 21 Tests before beating England in England for the first time. Pakistan didn’t need to wait too long for getting one over their former colonial rulers in their own backyard. They did it in their very first series in 1954 scoring a win in their fourth Test. It also took the Indians 30 years to beat the Aussies Down Under. And if India haven’t had to be patient for their opening wins in various countries, they’ve certainly been made to wait for an encore. Their only other victory in Australia came 22 years later in 2003. Against West Indies they won in 1971 and 1976 and then won in the Caribbean again 26 years later. By the way, the wait is still on for the elusive series win in Australia and South Africa.
1932 India’s first Test in England; 1971: India’s first win in England
PARTY POOPERS: Twice, India have found themselves on top of the Test rankings. They were at the helm from December 2009 to the summer of 2011—that infamous 4-0 thrashing at the hands of England—and briefly for a week earlier this year following their series win against the West Indies. But their more significant triumphs have come in the way of stopping juggernauts. They ended Australia’s famous 16-match winning streak with that fairytale return-from-the-dead win in Kolkata, and last year clipped the Proteas’ nine-year long unbeaten series record overseas, even if the pitches on offer dominated the headlines more than the cricket itself.
21 months, India spent between November 2009 to August 2011 as No.1 team in the world.
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