No Indian team in 15-20 years has achieved what Virat Kohli’s has overseas in three: Ravi Shastri
Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri have been working together closely a couple years. @Getty

In a statement that is bound to polarise opinions, India’s coach Ravi Shastri has lauded the current team under Virat Kohli for being the best travelling unit over the “past 15-20 years”.

Replying to a question during a press conference in London on Wednesday about the familiar batting frailties of the No 1 ranked team in overseas Test matches, Shastri reiterated his stance that this unit was determined to be a good travelling team.

“The endeavour of this team is to travel well and to compete and win,” said Shastri.

He then went on to mention the success that Kohl’s team has in Test matches overseas since 2015.

“If you look at the last three years, we won nine matches overseas and three series,” he said.

Since Kohli was appointed Test captain in the aftermath of MS Dhoni’s retirement in Australia in December 2014, India have travelled to Bangladesh, the West Indies and Sri Lanka twice. In Bangladesh, the one-off Test was drawn. In Sri Lanka in 2015 soon after that trip, India rallied back from defeat in Galle to win the next two Tests in Colombo.

Their next overseas visit was to the West Indies in 2016, where Kohli became the first Indian captain to win two Tests matches in the Caribbean. India won the four-match series 2–0. In 2017, India went back to Sri Lanka and won all three Tests against a side struggling to overcome the gigantic void filled by the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Shastri’s next sentence compared these achievements with those of Indian teams since the late 90s.

“I can’t see any other Indian team in the last 15-20 years who’ve had that kind of run in such a short time,” he said. “And you’ve had some great players in those series.”

Virat Kohli
Under Kohli, India have lost successive Test series in South Africa and Australia. @Getty

For the last time an Indian cricket team won a Test series in any other country other than Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the West Indies, one has to look at the 2009 tour of New Zealand when Dhoni’s team drew the three-match affair 1-0. That team featured Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan.

Since then, India’s Test tours outside of Asia and the West Indies have been to Australia (they lost 0-4 in 2011-12 and 0-2 in 2014-15), England (they lost 0-4 in 2011, 1-3 in 2014 and now trail 1-3), South Africa (they drew 1-1 in 2010-11, lost 0-1 in 2013-14 and 1-2 this year) and New Zealand (they lost 0-1 in 2013-14).

Under Kohli, India rose to No 1 in the ICC Test Championship after wining a string of series at home to go with the aforementioned wins in the West Indies and Sri Lanka. Outside of Asia, however, it has now lost successive Test series in South Africa and England.

While the bowling has improved significantly – in South Africa, they took 20 wickets in each Test and have bowled England out six times in seven innings on this tour, including once in a session – the batting has underwhelmed. Over the last thee years, in Test matches outside of Asia and the Caribbean, Kohli leads the way wth 830 runs at 59.28 and three centuries. Then comes Cheteshwar Pujara (341 at 31, one hundred), Hardik Pandya (283 at 21.76), Ajinkya Rahane (277 at 27.70), R Ashwin (216 at 21.60), Shikhar Dhawan (190 at 23.75), KL Rahul (143 at 11.91) and Murali Vijay (128 at 12.80).

Murali Vijay vows to return to India's Test squad
Murali Vijay was dropped from India’s Test squad last month after averaging 6.50 in four innings against England. @Getty

Asked about what frustrated him the most about India’s repeated batting failures overseas, Shastri said: “You’ve got to get tough, mentally. We’ve run teams close overseas, but now its not about competing — its about completing games. The endeavour is to learn, to understand where you made the mistakes, take it head on and try and correct it.

“Its just [about] being tougher mentally. You’ve got to hurt, to lose such matches because that’s when you look within and come out with the right kind of answer. To combat such situations again and get past the finishing line. One day you will, as long as you believe.”

The fifth and final Test against England starts Friday at Kia Oval. India’s next Test series is at home versus West Indies in October, and then a four-Test series in Australia starts December 6.