On Wednesday, Ravi Shastri, the head coach of the Indian cricket team, claimed during a press conference that no Indian Test team overseas, in the last 18 years, had performed as well as the current one.
“If you look at the last three years, we have won nine matches overseas and three-Test series,” he said, buttressing his argument. What Shastri conveniently omitted was that the series wins came against unheralded and depleted West Indies and Sri Lanka.
Even if one were to discount this omission, there’s more that weakens Shastri’s claims.
The current team is yet to win Test series in England or New Zealand or even draw a series in Australia and South Africa, like its predecessors had.
One can argue that Shastri was referring to the performance in the last three years, so is it fair to pit it against the nine-year performance (2001-2010) of the earlier contingent? But even if we break the nine-year performance into blocks of three years each, the inference is the same. Between 2002-2004, India defeated formidable opponent such as Pakistan in its backyards and drew against Australia, which was deemed as one of the greatest Test teams of all-time, and England on their soil. England had beaten Sri Lanka and Pakistan in their backyards before India drew series with them. As for Pakistan, it was the first time, India had a won series at the home of their arch-rivals.
Then, between 2005 to 2007, India won Test series in England and West Indies after 21 and 35 years respectively. They also won a Test in South Africa, but lost the series 2-1 after giving the hosts a tough fight.
In 2008-2010, India clinched a Test series in New Zealand and drew one in South Africa. In Australia, they had to settle for 2-1 loss as the series was marred by a slew of controversies.
Overall, India were statistically, and qualitatively, the 3rd most successful team overseas in the last decade, behind only Australia and South Africa.
The current Indian dispensation has not come anywhere close to the performance of previous teams of the last decade.
Another argument put forth by Shastri was that the result of the current series could have been ‘3-1 in favor of India’. By the same logic, the last decade’s team may well have won 2-1 against Australia (2008) and South Africa (2006) had the roll of the dice gone its way.
It is astonishing that Shastri not only came with an inane argument to justify India’s failure in England, but also blatantly distorted facts to fortify his points. Shastri was part of the commentary team during most of India’s overseas series in the last decade, so it is hard to believe that he isn’t aware of what really happened.
Instead of owning up to the fact that current team caved in at critical moments, and hence lost the series, the head coach attempted to discredit previous Indian teams that had performed much better. Shastri’s act, thus, reeks of arrogance and pettiness.
Instead of overlooking the glory of past Indian sides and putting his own lot above them, it would be prudent if India’s head coach concentrates on ironing out the chinks in his own team and getting the selection right.