India in England 2011 July 19, 2011

India's shaky Lord's history

In 15 Test visits to the famous stadium, India have finished victorious only once and have lost ten times
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Victor Trumper and Viv Richards did it once. George Headley did it twice in the same match. Sir Garfield Sobers also did it two times, the second at the age of 37. Sir Donald Bradman missed out on a third just before his 40th birthday. Even Ajit Agarkar has achieved the feat.

Indian batsmanship's most prolific trio, however, with 37,000 runs and 117 centuries between them, have no centuries to boast of at Lord's. Between them, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have played 22 innings at the ground considered the home of cricket. They have just four half-centuries between them. Dravid, with a 95 on debut in 1996, is the only one to have come close to three figures. Tendulkar averages 21.28, with a highest of 37 at the ground.

There are visiting teams that thrive on the Lord's ambience. Australia didn't lose there between 1934 and 2009. South Africa have won three of their last five Tests at Lord's. India, by contrast, are as ill at ease there as a sadhu at a black-tie dinner. You have to go back a quarter of a century, to a summer otherwise remembered for Diego Maradona and Boris Becker, for their only win at Lord's. Ten of the other 14 matches they've played have ended in defeat.

Few Indian batsmen have thrived there. Amar Singh scored a defiant half-century in India's inaugural Test, while the 1952 match is synonymous with Vinoo Mankad despite England emerging victorious yet again. He scored 72 in the first innings and followed that up with a superb 184, prompting the Wisden Almanack to report: "It was refreshing to see batsmen willing to make strokes, an art which many modern players have never learned. The fourth day, Monday, was memorable for the visit of the Queen and more wonderful batting by Mankad."

The pattern of poor results continued though, with the nadir reached in the summer of 42 (1974). With the world reeling from spiraling oil prices and recession, India's batsmen lasted just 17 overs in the second innings as Geoff Arnold and Chris Old made the ball do their bidding in helpful conditions.

Some pride was restored five years later, when Dilip Vengsarkar and Gundappa Vishwanath batted more than 300 minutes to save a match that India appeared certain to lose. Inclement weather helped, but the Almanack was especially generous in its praise of Vengsarkar's "tall and upright" play.

It was the start of an extraordinary love affair. In 1982, Vengsarkar made 157 in an Indian defeat, though that effort was almost eclipsed by Kapil Dev's astonishingly belligerent 55-ball 89. England may have gone past a small target with relative ease, but Kapil's display was in keeping with a summer that was illuminated by three of the game's greatest allround talents - Ian Botham and Imran Khan being the other two.

The victory in 1986 was again inspired by Vengsarkar's brilliant batsmanship. Graham Gooch made a first-day century, but few of the other batsmen mastered the seam-friendly conditions. "Off 170 balls in 266 minutes, his tenth Test century was one of classical elegance, charm and responsibility," says the Almanack. "Of the sixteen 4s in his unbeaten 126 (213 balls, 326 minutes) many came from handsome drives."

The man they called The Colonel, because of apparent similarities in style with CK Nayudu, had a fourth opportunity to score a hundred in 1990, but had to settle for a half-century in a game where Gooch was reprieved by Kiran More on 36 and went on to make a triple-century. England would win easily, despite a doughty hundred from Ravi Shastri and a dazzling one from Mohammad Azharuddin.

Azhar's innings appealed most to those that revel in clichés about "oriental" batting. It was also the response of a man who had gambled and failed horribly at the toss, and who saw all-out attack as the best way to unsettle a steady seam attack. The Almanack says: "Not a few strokes early in his innings would have been hard to excuse had they cost him his wicket; but his luck held, and a capacity Saturday crowd was treated to a rare exhibition of audacious, wristy strokeplay which, with 20 fours, took him into three figures off only 88 balls."

Six years later, Sourav Ganguly, derided by some as a 'quota' selection when the team left for England, batted seven hours for his 131 on debut. Dravid missed his landmark by a whisker and India's lack of decisiveness, coupled with English tail-end resistance, cost them the chance of a series-levelling victory.

Agarkar's nothing-to-lose 109 merely made the margin of defeat respectable in 2002 and there were two more batting meltdowns four years ago, when India were indebted to MS Dhoni and bad weather for a great escape on the final day.

With Virender Sehwag's shoulder problem having caused uncertainty and innuendo about the batting order, India once again head to Lord's as underdogs. Back in 1986, they arrived at HQ without a win in their previous 10 Tests, dating back nearly two years. Now, on the back of three of the most successful seasons that the national team has ever had, they must summon up the spirit of Mankad and Vengsarkar, with maybe a dash of Azhar, to emulate Kapil's side.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • spinkingKK on July 20, 2011, 14:11 GMT

    Gavaskar did score a big century in Lords for a World X1. It is worht mentioning. Because, that match was nothing like an exhibition match and was played for 5 days. It was as good as a test century, if not better.

  • s.g.sampath on July 20, 2011, 12:05 GMT

    Mr. Premchandran: Did not my classmate, Abbas Ali Baig score a century at Lords'?

  • johnathonjosephs on July 20, 2011, 12:02 GMT

    Indian team is extremely dominant in the ODI format at the moment, but they are overhyped/overrated in the Test format. After 20 years, India is still dependent on Tendulkar/Dravid and in recent times Laxman. Gambhir is the only other player who is consistent enough to be applauded for his feats. In the recent past, India have played almost exclusively at home, yet failed to win the series in Lanka and failed to dominate in West Indies (1-0 against the number 7 ranked team including a batting collapse in every match- you kidding me?). Even in South Africa, the first game they lost by an innings, and in the other test, the South Africans did their typical choke, losing 6 wickets in a span of 15 overs. Indian media overhyphes the Indian team to make the fans believe that Dhoni is a superman that can't be stopped. But here we go... a series against a strong team outside of India in seaming conditions. Lets see the Number 1 team now..... or will they survive by usual tendulkar/dravid?

  • dummy4fb on July 20, 2011, 11:37 GMT

    @NRI , @Sumeet Gupta

    Here is the link of that Diana Memorial match

    http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Scorecards/66/66176.html

  • Hammond on July 20, 2011, 11:28 GMT

    @Arnab Banerjee I suppose you have to consider it in a cultural context- an English ground, an English game and therefore an English sense of decorum and behavior. They wear appropriate clothing in the long room and behave appropriately given the culture and heritage of the place, and I suppose like anyone in the world they expect vistors to understand and appreciate the local customs.

  • muski on July 20, 2011, 11:15 GMT

    I hope MSD and Bhajji make it Large in Lords and not on the TV sets slugging it out. Both these guys have been passengers in the test team for quite sometime now. Among the top 6 batsmen, even if 2 click on a match to match basis, it will be enough for India to put a good show.

  • HSAF on July 20, 2011, 10:47 GMT

    @Jama - U r right except Sachin won a world cup. Its too much to say. There are overall 15 and contributed atleast 10 other members whom u r just seeing as idiots or making invisible. Its a team that won a World Cup not a single player who may be a GOD of Cricket. If only Sachin can win, then y need others in the team. If u like a person most keep onto yourself.

  • dummy4fb on July 20, 2011, 10:03 GMT

    Agarakar scored a century @Lords....!

  • Jama on July 20, 2011, 8:59 GMT

    First they said Sachin never won a world cup for india and he proved them wrong Then they said that India would lose in WI and we proved them wrong, now they are saying that india is underdog going into the lord's test and and we ll prove them wrong again.

  • dummy4fb on July 20, 2011, 8:25 GMT

    Hammond, you are correct. Lords is justifiably the home of cricket and is a beautiful ground if you take that hideous press box out. But there is a certain Brahminical snobbishness among the British with Lords(Remember the hue and cry about Sourav Ganguly when he took the shirt off on the Lord's Balcony) That needs to be done away with. Why, British and Indian cartoonists missed such a hillarious moment that could have been scetched to immortality as you will concede. Ganguly ceratinly does not have the physique to show off and those millions of Amulets were an embarrasment. But it was also about the triumphant shout of a man who had won- Does Lords not embody that? Should cricket be known for polite handshakes and balony manners or for blood, sweat, talent and toil? If Lords cannot embody that, then I am sorry, it is a very uncomfortable home to most cricketers!! (I fully go by Andrew Flintoff's taking his shirt off in Mumbai!)

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