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India tour of England 2014: Figures demonstrate why the Lord’s win is special

AjinkyaRahane-BhuvneshwarKumar
India’s heroes at Lord’s — Ajinkya Rahane (left) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, both have only seven Test matches under their belt © Getty Images

 

The Lord’s win has been touted as one of the greatest by an Indian team overseas. At the same time, such assessments have been looked at with raised and unimpressed eyebrows in some quarters. Arunabha Sengupta provides some key statistics to show why this win is indeed special.

Green top, an inexperienced batting line up sent in on the first day. They stumble to 145 for seven on the first afternoon, a familiar tale seems to be on the cards. The young team fights back, propped up by an exquisite century by Ajinkya Rahane playing only his seventh Test match. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, all of seven Tests under his belt, bats and bowls like a dream. The tussle continues, and Murali Vijay leaves ball after ball in a display of impeccable restraint. And finally, Ishant Sharma produces that monstrous spell after lunch on the final day, and for the first time an Indian pace bowler performs the feat of bouncing out the opposition in their backyard.

It is one of the greatest ever wins by an Indian team, if not the greatest. Yes, the England team is not really in the best frame of mind, but they are a very good batting unit who have worthy men coming in from deep in the order. Yes, they played some poor strokes, but if we look at the entire spell of Ishant Sharma instead of dwelling on the actual dismissals, we will realise that there was a definite plan executed to perfection. It was a challenge thrown at the batsmen, pressure built up, they were committed into the rash act of daring and fell with their blades flashing to a well set trap.

Yet, we have the usual raised eyebrows of the skeptics, who refuse to read much into the triumph. Of course, Indian cricket following being what it is, often success of a team is devastating to personal beliefs and the race towards rationalisation through undermining feats is quite hectic. Hence, we find many voices already wondering aloud why this victory should be accorded special status.

Here we have provided just a few reasons. This was India’s eleventh win outside the subcontinent in this century. We have ignored Zimbabwe for the analysis.

Let us look at what makes this particular win special.

The table below lists the amount of experience of each of the teams while scripting these eleven victories. For each victory we have listed the total number of Test matches under the combined belts of the members of the team. Besides, performance in overseas conditions is heavily dependent on the success of the batting line up which has so often failed the touring Indian teams in alien environments. Hence, we have also listed the total number of Test matches of the top six in the batting order in each of the wins. Please note that these figures consider the number of Tests played by team-members going into the Test and not after it.

Season

Opponent

Venue

Total #of Tests

- Team

Total # Tests

– Top 6 batsmen

2001-02

WI

Port of Spain

359

256

2002

Eng

Leeds

403

269

2003-04

Aus

Adelaide

440

316

2006

WI

Kingston

461

270

2006-07

SA

Johannesburg

641

464

2007-08

Aus

Perth

719

529

2008-9

NZ

Hamilton

702

502

2010-11

SA

Durban

810

535

2011

WI

Kingston

480

287

2014

Eng

Lord’s

251

166

As should be apparent from the table, the team for the Lord’s Test was the least experienced of the Indian teams who have won matches overseas – and by some distance. Not only did the team have just 251 Tests between the eleven – more than 100 less than the next in the list – 84 of those had been played by captain MS Dhoni, making the others significantly greener in comparison.

Besides, if we look at the amount of experience in the top six batsmen, we again find that the side is way less seasoned than any of the previous batting groups.

What is more prominent in the table is that the Indian team became a cohort of specific individuals through the 2000s and gradually matured into a unit of incredible experience. Hence from 2002 to 2010-11 we see the total number of Tests growing from 359 to 810 and for the batsmen 256 to 535. Few teams can dream of being blessed by an average of 90 tests per batsman.

Anyone aware of the recent history of Indian cricket will vouch that such was indeed the case. With Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Sourav Ganguly, India developed a core set of players and the wins came – albeit not as frequently as one would have wished – down the decade with the team gaining from this splendid spread of wisdom.

From 2011, a close look at the team composition will indicate a change of guard and setting up a new foundation. This is a young team that has come to the fore, without the vast experience of the recently retired, and perhaps as a consequence without the associated baggage. They know they can win. They came close in South Africa and New Zealand, and could not quite close matches out. It was a period that required patience and learning. As far as the indications tell us, they have learnt a lot from the fruitless outings.

At Lord’s they have raised a new level, and hopefully progressed to a watershed moment. And one expects more such triumphs as the new core stabilises and the last two cells of the table are filled with bigger and greater numbers.

Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

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