The big WTC flaw and India’s hunger for greatness

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24 Oct 2019 | 01:24 PM
authorNitin Fernandes

The big WTC flaw and India’s hunger for greatness

India are one of the most dominant home Test teams in history

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NOTE: All decade-wise stats are post 1950s and consider a minimum of 10 Tests 

In the 2015-16 National Basketball Association (NBA) season, the Golden State Warriors won 73 matches out of 82 during regular season. It was a record, a feat that bettered the 72 games that a Michael Jordan-inspired Chicago Bulls had won in 1995-96. Despite that remarkable feat during regular season, the Warriors did not win the Championship in 2016, losing to LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in an epic final series. 

Coming to the cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC) had a couple of years ago conceptualised the World Test Championship. While there have been world events for shorter formats in the past, this was a first-of-a-kind tournament involving the multi-day form of the game. Fast forward to 2019 and India have been impeccable since the start of the championship. 

They’ve played two series so far, winning each Test against both West Indies and South Africa, and find themselves on the top of the table with 240 points on the board. Yes, no other team has played more than one series yet, but it’s a staggering fact that all other teams combined have a total of 232 points, which is lesser than India’s tally. 

Virat Kohli’s side do have sterner assignments lined up, including tours to New Zealand and Australia next year but should yet easily be able to finish in the top two and qualify for the final. But in a one-Test finale at Lord’s, India are not likely to start as favourites against a team like England or Australia. In fact, with India’s last three tours to England ending in 4-0, 3-1 and 4-1 defeats respectively, there is a huge probability that the world’s number one Test team will do a Warriors 2016. 

It’s fundamental to note though that in the 2016 NBA finals, Warriors had home court advantage in the final, with four of the seven games held at their arena. One must definitely question as to why the ICC haven’t thought on similar lines and given the team that finishes on top home advantage in the final. We could now have a situation where the second-placed team finishes a couple of hundred points behind the top team and yet start the final as favourites owing to the conditions. 

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India’s domination at the start of the World Test Championship is not a surprise considering their form in the format over the last few years. After all, they’ve been the top ranked team since October 2016. While a historical Test series win over Australia Down Under was the zenith of India’s Test achievements this decade, it’s their home dominance that has seen them remain steady at the top. 

If we compare teams decade-wise, then only the great Australian team of the 2000s have a better win percentage at home (76.27) than India in the 2010s (72.92). That number has steadily increased over the latter part of the decade, with the Kohli-led team now on a record 12-Test winning streak at home. The best winning streak the Australians in the 2000s could manage at home was 10 which shows how enormous India’s record has been. 

Interestingly, as we can see in the graph above, four of the top five sides with the best win percentages at home have come in this decade which does indicate that teams are more dominant in favourable conditions now than ever before. Yet, India’s number is a notch above all the rest in the 2010s. 

Despite there always being an impression that India have been invincible at home for years, previously only in the 1990s did they manage a 50+ win percentage over a decade. In the noughties, they enjoyed a win percentage of 44.68 at home, with the number increasing by a whopping 28.24% this decade. 

Even when it comes to batting average, India’s numbers in the 2010s are up there with the best since the 1950s. Only Australia in the 2000s (47.67) and Pakistan in the 1970s (46.89) scored with a higher batting average at home than India’s 44.1 in the current decade. It must to be noted that Pakistan, who went unbeaten in Tests at home in the 1970s, played 14 matches during that time period – 34 less than India have in the 2010s so far. 

A team’s supremacy can usually be asserted by the finding out the difference between batting and bowling averages. In the 2010s at home, that figure for India is 17.03, again only bettered by the Australian team of the noughties (19.32). 

While India’s awe-inspiring run in home Tests began in 2013 under the leadership of MS Dhoni, with six wins from as many Tests against Australia and West Indies, it has been under Virat Kohli that they’ve managed to consolidate their legacy as a top tier home team in the longest format of the game. 

The current Indian skipper has the third best win percentage (75) in home Tests, which is higher than even Ricky Ponting (74.36) who led Australia for most parts of their dominance during the 2000s. Only Shaun Pollock (76.92), who amazingly did not lose a single Test at home in 13 matches as captain, and Steve Waugh (75.86) are higher than Kohli on this list. 

When it comes to average difference between bat and ball at home, once again, Kohli’s team (20.8) is third after Pollock (23.73) and Waugh (21.58). Only three other Indian captains enjoyed an average difference of 10+ under similar scenarios and even their numbers are a fair deal below Kohli’s: Mohammad Azharuddin at 15.04, MS Dhoni at 13.64 and Sunil Gavaskar at 10.47. 

In fact, Pollock and Kohli are the only two captains under whom a team’s home batting average is above 45 and the bowling average below 25. Another advocacy of the fact that the India’s dominance at home under Kohli has been seldom matched in the history of Test cricket. 

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With a well-balanced batting line-up, a variety of spin options and arguably their greatest pace bowling unit ever, India’s home dominance is unlikely to hit a roadblock anytime soon. And it’s time to replicate the same in unfamiliar conditions. Kohli should look to build on the series win in Australia and turn this side from one of the greatest home Test teams to one of the greatest Test teams ever. And with the resources at his disposal, it’s an attainable task. 

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