India in England 2011

India's bouncebackability

India have a poor record in the first Tests of series, but their second-Test numbers are remarkably better

S Rajesh

July 26, 2011

Comments: 100 | Text size: A | A

Harbhajan Singh struggled for wickets, England v India, 1st Test, Lord's, 2nd day, July 22, 2011
Harbhajan Singh averages more than 60 in overseas first Tests against the top sides © Getty Images
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Another first Test in an overseas series, and another defeat for this Indian team. While there were admittedly several factors that went against India at Lord's - the injuries to Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir, and Sachin Tendulkar's illness all severely affected the team - the fact remains that they were outclassed, and now need to mount yet another comeback to draw level. The only positive, perhaps, is that India would be used to this scenario, since they have faced it five times on their last seven tours (excluding tours to Bangladesh) all within the last four years. Between 2003 and 2007, there were six successive series when India had avoided that fate (twice in Pakistan, and once each in Australia, West Indies, South Africa and England), but the first-Test bug has hit them hard since, with defeats in Australia, Sri Lanka (twice), South Africa, and now in England. (Click here for India's overseas Test results since 2001.)

MS Dhoni can also draw some hope from the fact that the first Test will be followed by the second Test. That's stating the obvious, but historically their performances in second Tests have been huge improvements on the first. Over the last decade, and excluding tours to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, India have a 4-9 win-loss record in first Tests of away series, with the four wins coming in Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies. In second Tests, on the other hand, they've won six times and lost only four, which means their win-loss ratio in second Tests is almost three-and-a-half times times their first-Test ratio.

Overall, second Tests seem to conjure much happier memories for India, with wins in Kandy (2001), Port of Spain (2002), Adelaide (2003), Trent Bridge (2007), Galle (2008) and Durban (2010). Twice in the last three years, India have bounced back to win the second Test after losing the first - in Sri Lanka in 2008, and in South Africa last year. They promptly lost the third Test in that Sri Lanka series, but in South Africa they drew the third Test in Cape Town to ensure the series ended 1-1. Of the eight previous occasions when they've lost the first Test overseas since 2001, India have lost the series five times and drawn it thrice. More encouragingly, they've drawn the last two such instances, in Sri Lanka (in 2010) and South Africa.

Coming back to the current series, it also helps that the venue for the second Test is again Trent Bridge, a ground where they beat England by seven wickets in 2007.

India in 1st Tests and other Tests overseas, since 2001*
  Matches Won Lost Drawn
First Tests 18 4 9 5
Second Tests 17 6 4 7
Third Tests 15 4 6 5
Overall 56 15 20 21
* Excluding Tests in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh

A look at the stats for India's top batsmen in each Test of these series reveal that most of them have been at their best in the second Test. The difference has been especially stark for VVS Laxman. He has historically struggled in the opening Test: his overall first-Test average is 36.69, with only one century and 16 half-centuries. In overseas Tests in the last decade, Laxman's story has been one of getting starts and not converting them into significant scores: out of 30 innings, he has gone past 20 on 21 occasions, yet he has managed only seven half-centuries, and no hundreds at all. In second Tests, he has turned it around completely, with three hundreds in 28 innings and an average of almost 60. His last seven second-Test innings read thus: 76, 124 not out, 29, 38, 96, 85 and 87.

The difference in averages for Gautam Gambhir is huge too, but the sample size is much smaller for him: Gambhir has only played two away second Tests for that average of 70.75. The numbers are fairly even across the three Tests for Rahul Dravid, but Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag both have very strong first-Test stats. For Tendulkar, the average drops into the 40s in the second and third Tests, while Sehwag's drop is significant in the third Test, which is when he is expected to return to the team.

India's top batsmen in each Test of an overseas series since Jan 2001*
Batsman 1st Tests/ Ave 100s/ 50s 2nd Tests/ Ave 100s/ 50s 3rd Tests/ Ave 100s/ 50s
Gautam Gambhir 5/ 34.22 0/ 2 2/ 70.75 1/ 2 3/ 74.16 1/ 3
Virender Sehwag 12/ 59.42 4/ 2 12/ 55.26 3/ 3 11/ 34.15 2/ 1
Rahul Dravid 18/ 47.55 4/ 5 17/ 51.24 4/ 8 15/ 49.00 2/ 6
Sachin Tendulkar 15/ 54.63 4/ 4 14/ 44.20 3/ 4 12/ 42.19 2/ 5
VVS Laxman 17/ 35.14 0/ 7 16/ 59.67 3/ 10 14/ 47.33 2/ 8
* Excluding Tests in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh

Most of the focus for the poor first-Test results has usually been on the batsmen, but India's leading spin bowler's stats in series openers are abysmal. In his entire career, Harbhajan Singh has taken only 30 wickets in 14 first Tests overseas (excluding one-off Tests), at an average of 60.40 and a strike-rate of 108 balls per wicket. In overseas first Tests since 2001, in countries other than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, his average is almost 68. In his last four such Tests his figures read thus: 0 for 98 and 0 for 24 in Galle; 2 for 169 in Centurion; 2 for 51 and 1 for 54 in Kingston; and 0 for 152 and 1 for 66 at Lord's - a total of six wickets for 614 runs, an average of 102.33. The good news is that his numbers improve significantly in the second and third Tests, but he has been guilty of throwing away the initiative in the series opener repeatedly.

In 14 away first Tests, Harbhajan has taken only one five-for - 6 for 63 in Hamilton in 2009. He had match figures of 7 for 120 in that game, which means that excluding that match, Harbhajan averages 73.56 per wicket in first Tests abroad.

There's no doubt that he usually lifts his game deeper into the series - in South Africa last year he took 4 for 10 in Durban and 7 for 120 in Cape Town after a similarly ordinary start to the series. An encore of those performances would suit India just fine.

Harbhajan in each Test of a series
  1st Tests/ Wkts Ave/ SR 2nd Test/ Wkts Ave/ SR 3rd Tests/ Wkts Ave/ SR
Away, since 2001* 11/ 22 67.90/ 114.3 12/ 39 39.58/ 77.7 8/ 39 28.30/ 64.1
Away, overall 14/ 30 60.40/ 108.1 17/ 51 39.31/ 78.5 8/ 39 28.30/ 64.1
* Excluding Tests in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by joanne_s on (July 29, 2011, 8:02 GMT)

@RS_Cric_11: So I assume you think India aren't really the best Test team in the world then, given their failure to win series in South Africa and India? "The definition of win is also different" No, a win is a win is a win is a win. You just want to change the goalposts so that if England do become number 1, you won't acknowledge them as such. And even if they thump India in India (not saying they will, it's hypothetical) I bet you'll still be looking for excuses as to why they're not really the best team in the world.

@khiladisher: please, please, please, turn your caps lock off.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2011, 16:58 GMT)

Did any one claim to be No.1 when the aussies were at their prime? Come on, England players like Geof Boycott, Nasser Hussain all saying England is no 1 no 1.. Someone rightly said it, its not no 1, its the passion for the game. Indians never want to be no 1, but they are coz they deserve it.. Injuries happen, you cant say u could have won with all the star players. They played negatively. But India will bounce back. Leave it to Rahul and VVS.. Sachin can get out, but if he plays, any team is done for. Claim as No 1 after defeating India in the series. We won the world cup, not England, remember. Even after the draw, we won it, coz we deserved it. India will show its class.

Posted by khiladisher on (July 28, 2011, 14:24 GMT)

@RS_CRIC_11-WELL SAID UNLESS AND UNTIL A CRICKET TEAM COMES TO INDIA AND BEATS INDIA-INDIA WILL STILL REMAIN THE #1 TEAM IN WORLD CRICKETAS WELL AS WORLD CHAMPIONS-IT IS A JOKE TO HEAR ALL FORMER ENGLISH PLAYERS SAYING THAT ENGLAND IS READY TO BE THE #1 TEAM IN WORLD CRICKET-NEVER WON A SINGLE WORLD CUP EVER AND NEVER BEAT INDIA IN INDIA IN OVER 30 YEARS-THE BIGGEST JOKE IS THE ENGLISH FANS TALKING ABOUT 4-0 {THEY CAN NEVER ACHIEVE THAT EVEN IF SEHWAG-ZAHEER AND GAMHIR ARE UNAVAILABLE}

Posted by RS_Cric_11 on (July 28, 2011, 13:00 GMT)

It's strange from the part of English team, they just want to be number one.... whereas INDIAN players at no point says they want to be number one.... always maintained they want to play good cricket. Once you play good cricket, ranking 'll take care of it. Only one problem with INDIAN team is they are not playing dominating cricket. 1 test lost is not the end of the series... or hopefully English cricketers cherish one moment of their life time... Lets talk about it after the end of the series. At the end of the series, the better team 'll surely win. The definition of win is also different... Even if INDIA draw the series they wins coz, English condition is alien to it. And Even if INDIA Loss, ENGLISH team can't say they are better than INDIA, as they have not able to win a series in INDIA. IF ANY TEAM can beat INDIA in INDIA, you can believe they are NUMBER ONE TEAM in all conditions.... Take it as the ultimate goal...

Posted by smudgeon on (July 28, 2011, 12:29 GMT)

That photo of Bhaji is a good example of why cricket should only ever be viewed in real-time.

Posted by Joby_George on (July 28, 2011, 10:14 GMT)

India will win this series 2-1. Dhoni is over defensive in his batting which makes his batting a failure. What if Sehwag playes over defensive which is not his natural style? Adam Gilchrist too played attacking test cricket. Let Dhoni bat like one days and score an odd 40 -50 runs. Rahul Dravid will be indians key in this series. Drop harbhajan and bring in sreesanth or even yuvraj can replace harbhajan, he can bowl better than harbhajan and bat very well too.

Posted by india-the-worldchampions on (July 27, 2011, 23:31 GMT)

Here some people are reacting as if India has lost the series 4-0. Come on guys give the credit to the Indians since England has won the test match for the 1st time since 05 leave alone the series which they haven't won since 1996 both home and away which even the aussies were not able to achieve at their prime.These are early days in the series & wait for the conclusion of the series. Moreover, India won't have lost a single test if they had the full strength team but due to the fate everything went wrong that could have gone before the game or during the game like Sehwag missing the first 2 matches then zak pulling his hamstring and also viral infection to SRT and blow to Gambhir.Give credit to India for maintianing their No.1 ranking for 2 yrs and they will continue to be No.1. I don't think any other team would have been able to mantain it even for few months after the decline of oz. I think India will thrash these english in the remaining matches. Jai Hind................

Posted by khiladisher on (July 27, 2011, 20:15 GMT)

@SHARIQ BABBAR-SEHWAG IS A LEGEND IN WORLD CRICKET AND THE GREATEST GAME CHANGER EVER IN TEST MATCH CRICKET EVER-SCORING ALMOST 7425 RUNS AGAINST MAJOR TEST MATCH PLAYING COUNTRIES WITH 22 HUNDREDS AT A AMAZING STRIKE RATE OF 82 RUNS PER 100 BALLS,SCORING 2 TRIPLE HUNDREDS -319VS SA AND 309 VS PAKISTAN AND ALSO SCORES OF 293-254-201-201-2 EACH AGAINST PAKISTAN AND SRI LANKA ALL ARE VERY GOOD BOWLING ATTACKS-HE HAS ALSO SCORED 150+ RUNS 14 TIMES IN HIS CAREER.HOME AVG-60-AWAY AVG-50-ALSO INCLUDED IN ALL TIME GREATEST ICC TEST MATCH AS WELL AS THE ONE DAY TEAM.I REST MY CASE WITH ALL THESE FACTS LISTED.

Posted by   on (July 27, 2011, 19:14 GMT)

don't forget what sreesanth has done!! we have seen it on even difficult pitches. So I feel he should be in the team for all the three tests vs england!

Posted by TysonSid on (July 27, 2011, 19:10 GMT)

@ all: guys India is going on win this test match and series too

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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