The only thing that is worse than India’s overseas record in Tests are the way they have started these Test series. The Indian team were never known to be good travellers, but what preceded this reputation were their tag of ‘nervous beginners’.
For starters, since 2010, India have failed to win the opening Test in England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and even Bangladesh. Since 2010, out of their 16 opening Tests of a tour, India have lost nine of them, drew three and won only four, which takes the loss percentage to 50.25.
The wins that India have managed were against West Indies and Sri Lanka.
India’s bad record abroad can be attributed to their bad start, which most of the time haven’t allowed the side to settle in and get the momentum going in their favour.
In most of these matches, India’s downfall was due to its batting collapse. It is no secret that Indian batters, who have been bred on flattest of pitches, never enjoyed the sight of a green top in Australia, England or South Africa. A hint of a movement and bounce, and India batters were in trouble.
So, India’s batting collapse on the first day of the first Test against Australia wasn’t just solitary bad day in office. The side has been guilty of similar mistakes in the past and in most of the cases the people involved were the ones playing in Adelaide on Thursday.
India’s first-day jinx has been something that has bothered the side for a long time when abroad.
At the start of the year, India were in South Africa. After a fine display by the Indian bowlers on the first day of the first Test in Cape Town, Indian batters didn’t live up to their expectation and fell prey to the first-day curse.
South Africa were bowled for 286 in their first innings. When it was India’s turn to bat at the end of the first day, India lost the three important wickets of Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. By the end of the day’s play, India were 28/3 in 11 overs.
India went onto lose the Test, courtesy a poorer batting display in the second innings, despite South Africa being bowled out for 130 in the second innings.
India’s first-Test, first-day fright was at the forefront in their earlier tour to South Africa as well.
In 2010, after winning the toss, South Africa put India to bat in Centurion. 38.4 overs later India were all out for 136, Tendulkar top scoring with a 36.
Three years later, this time at Johannesburg, India again batted first. After a mini collapse at the top, Virat Kohli brought some semblance, only for India to lose their last six wickets for 61 runs. Only difference, this time the collapse extended to Day 2.
The story continued in England too. India failed to capitalise after their bowlers put them in a strong position, dismissing England for 287 in the first innings of the first Test in Birmingham. Later, when India came into bat, it was only Virat Kohli, who showed some resistance, with his 149. India couldn’t even bat the entire Day 2, as the rest of the team could only manage 105 runs.
The same story continued in the second innings. Chasing 194 for victory, India were wrapped up for a paltry 162. This time King Kohli also couldn’t find a way out, as India succumbed to 31-run loss.
Four years back, in New Zealand, India’s batting painted a similar sorry picture in the first Test. After New Zealand put up a huge total of 503 in their first innings, Dhawan, Pujara and Kohli were back in the hut within the first six overs, with only 10 runs on the board. After delaying the inevitable, India finally were dismissed for 202.
So, this occurrence of a batting collapse in the opening Test isn’t a new phenomenon for the number one Test side. It is never easy for a touring side to acclimatise themselves to the new playing conditions in a foreign land, and for that similar reason tour matches and warm-up matches are organised in the first place.
In the South Africa tour earlier, this year India didn’t play a single warm-up game, which has been the practice for the last few tours. In England, too, India only played one warm-up game, a three-day fixture against Essex, which got reduced to two days. Similarly, in Australia it was one four-day match against Cricket Australia XI.
But with the Indian team management’s policy of keeping the tour matches and warm-up games restricted to minimum, it is hardly surprising that in most tours these days, the first Test is serving that purpose.
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