Indians Will Have to be Wary of Past Record in Australia
India will ``steamroll’’ Australia?
Sachin Tendulkar is the latest to join the chorus of India having a good chance to win a Test series in Australia for the first time. And like everyone else he feels that this opportunity has come about since the current Australian team which will be without Steve Smith and David Warner is inexperienced and not up to the level of past teams India have played against. ''If you see the Australian teams of the past and compare them to this one we have a very good chance’’ he said.
Tendulkar is probably referring to Australian teams of his time which were quite formidable. But Australia has had comparatively weak teams in the past against which the Indians came up against. And yet after eleven Test series ''Down Under’’ dating back to 1947 India have not even won one. They have lost eight and drawn three. India has won at least one Test series in all other countries with whom they have competed against from the thirties to the eighties. The only other country where India have not won a Test series is South Africa but visits there commenced only in 1992.
India should certainly have won the Test series in 1977-78 for the home team was a badly depleted side having lost all their leading players to Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. It was virtually an Aussie B team and yet the Indians lost the series 3-2. To put the Indian performance in proper perspective it should be pointed out that the following year against virtually the same Aussie team England won the six-match series 5-1. It is another matter that the two Indian wins were of an emphatic nature – by 222 runs and by an innings and two runs - while the three Australian victories were all by narrow margins – 16 runs, two wickets and 47 runs.
India had another good chance to win in 1985-86. Australia was going through a rough patch and was getting beaten by every team. In the same season in fact New Zealand defeated them at home and away. The Aussies had also lost more than once during this phase to England and West Indies and for once India were the favourites as they arrived in Australia. But a combination of events – typical Aussie pluck, rain and some poor tactics by the Indian think tank - led to the home team getting away with draws in the second and third Tests at Melbourne and Sydney after the first at Adelaide had ended in an honourable draw.
India eyed another opening in 2003-04 against a pretty formidable Aussie team. The Indians too were a strong outfit and after the four-match series was level 1-1 India going into the final Test at Sydney led off with 705 for seven declared. For some inexplicable reason Sourav Ganguly did not enforce the follow-on despite a lead of 231 and the match already well into the fourth day. The Aussies with a stout hearted display the second time around held out for a draw.
The only other time India came back from Australia with a shared series was in 1980-81 but on that occasion the visitors were exceptionally fortunate in the contest ending 1-1. After the first Test in Sydney was lost in three days by an innings India were lucky to escape with a draw in the second Test at Adelaide being eight down and well short of their target when stumps were finally drawn. Given a lifeline India then produced a remarkable triumph in the third and final Test – even today fondly recalled as the Miracle at Melbourne - to come back with honours even.
Yes, on present form India who are the No 1 ranked team to Australia’s No 5 will start as favourites but on past record the home team holding their own in the four-match series cannot be ruled out. No Aussie team can ever be written off given their traditional fighting qualities. Under the circumstances the comments of former Aussie fast bowler Jeff Thomson that India will ''steamroll’’ Australia can best be put down to playing to the gallery.