The first two Tests of the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy between India and Australia have reinforced visiting skipper Pat Cummins’ pre-series statement that “winning a series in India is like an Ashes away series but even more rare”.
The magnitude of accomplishing this almost chimerical feat was amplified after Australia lost in Nagpur and Delhi inside three days, barely surviving 16 sessions of game-time out of the 30 available across both Tests. But Australia’s capitulation wasn’t a bolt from the blue and the top-ranked Test team in the world isn’t too far behind when it comes to visiting teams trying to prolong the inevitable.
In the last 15 Tests played in India since October 2019, a match has lasted for just over 10 sessions on average, with only three games extending into the final day and just one ending in a draw. The third Test between India and England in Ahmedabad in February 2021 ended within a record two days, and the Aussies can take some consolation in outdoing their Ashes rival in that regard.
Batting in India is tough
Considering Australia is only among two teams, the other being England, to win a Test in India in the last decade, Cummins would have expected a better showing from his batters. But a precipitous collapse in the second innings (91 and 113 all out in Nagpur and Delhi, respectively) handed Australia the ignominy of having the lowest average score per wicket (16.1) amongst the six teams that have visited India since October 2019. Sri Lanka comes close at 16.72, while Bangladesh (17.02), New Zealand (17.69), England (19.83) and South Africa (23.01) are well clear.
Compare this with Australia’s 26.64 runs per wicket average when it last visited India for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and gave the host a stern fight in a 1-2 series defeat and you’ll know the preparatory camp in Bengaluru ahead of the Nagpur Test hasn’t reaped dividends.
Batting on Indian pitches is tough. Add to that the deadly spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, and it is near impossible. Since 2019, the per-wicket average in India is the lowest (26.86) amongst all hosts of the ICC World Test Championship (WTC). The seaming and bouncy pitches of South Africa and West Indies come close at 27.49 and 27.81, respectively. England (30.23), Australia (31.00), Sri Lanka (31.91), New Zealand (32.21), Bangladesh (32.62) and Pakistan (38.26) are all above the 30-run-per-wicket mark.
Meanwhile, Indian batters, despite their apparent waning ability to tackle spin, average a whopping 40.83 runs per wicket at home, complementing the havoc wreaked by the tweakers with the ball.
Batting in the third and fourth innings is even tougher
Their numbers are also helped by the fact that they don’t bat twice in a match too often. Since the 2019 South Africa series, India has registered seven innings victories out of the 13 games it has won. The wear and tear on spin-friendly pitches only make it harder to bat in the third and fourth innings. This is amply borne by the third and fourth innings average of 20.64 since October 2019 in India. The difference with other host countries grows more pronounced in the third and fourth innings, with South Africa averaging the next lowest at 24.81, followed by New Zealand (25.17), Australia (25.60), Sri Lanka (27.03), Bangladesh (27.83), West Indies (28.60), England (30.64), Pakistan (37.13) over the same period.
Again, Indian batters hold their own in the second half of the match at home, averaging a healthy 34.92, compared to Bangladesh (21.47), Sri Lanka (19.50), New Zealand (17.47), South Africa (17.10) and England (13.95). The Aussies (10.20), yet again, fare the worst.
Meet the wreckers
India’s spin trio of Ashwin (92 wickets at 16.18), Jadeja (45 wickets at 20.15) and Axar Patel (40 wickets at 13.87) have steered India’s juggernaut at home. They have picked 177 wickets between themselves at an average of 16.67 out of the 294 wickets picked by Indian bowlers at home since October 2019. Spinners overall have scalped 194 at 18.50, while the seamers have chipped in with 100 wickets at 18.24.
As seen during the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy, negotiating Indian spinners, particularly Ashwin and Jadeja, becomes increasingly difficult in the third and fourth innings as the pitch wears down. As a result, visiting teams have scored more than 200 only twice in the third or fourth innings in the last 15 Tests at home.
Indian spinners, expectedly, have been at their marauding best while bowling in the third or fourth innings of a Test. They have picked 105 wickets at 14.74, significantly better than their overall average of 18.50. Ashwin (48 wickets) operates at 13.62, Jadeja (26 wickets) at 16.92 and Axar (20 wickets) at 12.5.
What makes the incisiveness of Indian spinners more telling is the staggering gulf between them and visiting tweakers. Since October 2019, the English spinners have been the most successful in India, but their average of 29.40 pales in comparison to that of their Indian counterparts. Moreover, Australian off-spinner Todd Murphy is the only visiting spinner who averages under 20 (19.90).
While the Indian seamers have played second fiddle, their contribution cannot be neglected. Interestingly, they operate at a marginally better average (18.24) than the spinners (18.50) in conditions not conducive to seam bowling.
Jasprit Bumrah averages a staggering 15.64 for his 14 wickets in four matches, while Mohammed Shami leads the pack with 34 wickets at 16.11.
Meanwhile, success for visiting pacers has been few and far between. The English seamers have done better than other visiting teams, but their average of 26.09 is a far cry from their Indian counterparts. Pacers from New Zealand (29.21), Bangladesh (36.61), Australia (51.00), Sri Lanka (55.57) and South Africa (70.20) have found it even tougher to bowl in Indian conditions since 2019.
The holy trinity of batting, spin and pace bowling has made India, in home conditions, a near-impossible foe to beat. Amid the din of ‘doctored’ and ‘unfair’ pitches, a numerical comparison asserts India’s unrivalled ascendancy in all three departments and lays bare the growing gulf between the host and visiting teams.
Latest on Sportstar
- Women’s Junior Asia Cup 2023: India ready for Malaysia challenge
- Swiatek no fan of ‘Iga’s Bakery’ memes after serving up another double bagel
- An Se Young defeats He Bingjiao in straight games, claims Thailand Open title
- WTC Final: Rahane stands at crossroads in his comeback Test
- Ravi Dahiya pulls out of from Bishkek Ranking Series after injury during warmup