Australia in India 2013-14 October 12, 2013

Australia's ODI wonders in India


Australia's solitary Test series victory in India since 1969-70 is one of the more humbling statistics in the record of the world's 'winningest' cricket country. The series ledgers alone - 2-0, 0-0, 1-0, 2-1, 2-1, 1-2, 2-0, 4-0 - tell a tale of ignorance, difficulty in adjusting, and lessons often learned too late in a tour, then invariably forgotten in time for the start of the next one. Those results would suggest that there is no more difficult place on earth for an Australian cricket team to prosper, not least in the years after the greats began to retire in 2007.

Yet the Antipodean ODI tale on the subcontinent is more about triumph than humiliation. Starting with a 1987 World Cup victory that marked the official start of Australian cricket's regeneration under Allan Border and Bob Simpson, the 50-over format has brought something near to consistently strong results in India. Since 1998, when regular international series contact between the two countries was resumed after a mid-1990s freeze-out phase, Australian teams have emerged triumphant in five out of the six limited-overs series contested there, whether they be triangular tournaments as in 1998 and 2003, or bilateral visits on other occasions.

They also won the 2006 Champions Trophy and reached the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup. In 2009, Ricky Ponting's team managed to claw to a 4-2 victory despite having a full XI first-choice players absent injured.

These series victories have come in a range of circumstances, whether after a Test series or standing alone. The only time Australia have not won a limited-overs contest against India in recent times is 2010, when the one match of three not to be washed out resulted in a home victory at Vizag after a high-scoring chase. But otherwise, the tourists have found themselves excelling away from home at a vast assortment of venues, from Bangalore in the south and Mumbai on the west coast, to Mohali in the north and even Guwahati on the distant eastern fringes. A multitude of factors can be pointed to by way of explanation, but here are a few of the most salient.

A history of success

Confidence in the knowledge that those before you have achieved great things in India has helped Australia's ODI teams ever since Border lifted the Reliance Cup aloft at Eden Gardens 26 years ago. The doubts, phobias and conspiracy theories that cloud the mind of an Australian Test cricketer on the subcontinent tend to fall away for one-day matches, while the roars of Indian crowds feel less claustrophobic and distracting for the knowledge that they have not stopped the visitors before. Individuals, too, have benefited from strong records there. Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting have all fared better in ODIs than Tests, while the likes of the tweakers Nathan Hauritz and Brad Hogg have held their own in coloured clothing despite being swatted away in the five-day game.

More familiar pitches

Australia's stand-in captain, George Bailey, believed this to be one of the most critical factors in the team's greater level of comfort relative to Tests. Where five-day wickets are commonly worn, spitting and spinning, Indian groundsmen prepare their most even-tempered surfaces for limited-overs contests, sometimes allowing grass to hold them together and so granting fast bowlers a little more assistance. Add this to the swing that can be occasionally generated in early starts and the picture becomes far more familiar to Australian players. Damien Fleming, Nathan Bracken, Doug Bollinger and Johnson all profited from early morning seam and swing at various times, while Shaun Marsh, Cameron White, Michael Hussey, Ponting and Watson have played freely without worrying too much about the ground beneath their feet.

Less reliance on spin

Another notable quality to Indian ODI surfaces is the fact that they seldom require the selection of a team brimful with quality spinners. Australia's preferred reliance on fast men with the odd slow bowler for variety has worked effectively, with Shane Warne, Hauritz and Hogg playing fair supporting roles. It is arguable the ability of the pacemen to make headway in 50-over matches on the subcontinent has at times lulled the national selectors into thinking that the same might occur in Test matches, but the differences in pitch preparation have generally conspired against the success of such a tactic.

A lower key

It cannot help a team to view anywhere as the final frontier, even if the 2004 tourists managed to accomplish a Test series win while embracing the idea of India as their last mountain. The pressure Australian Test players feel in India, both in the middle of the ground and from the edges, has inhibited their performances at times, timid strokes and indifferent bowling spells reflecting the sense that the world is closing in around them. By contrast, that feeling tends to be on the other side during ODI series. No nation loves the one-day game more than India, and the expectations upon the home team for ODI tournaments that mean little in the wider scheme have allowed an unfancied Australia to sneak up on them more than once. The 2011 World Cup quarter-final in Ahmedabad is a notable exception.

Ricky Ponting's captaincy

Three ODI series in India for three victories is one of many garlands Ponting gained over a storied career, though as he has noted it will be one of many obscured by the loss of three Ashes series. Nonetheless, his calm leadership, sparkling but sturdy batting and peerless example in the field contributed greatly to a legacy of limited-overs confidence on Indian shores. In this, Ponting shares something in common with Border. Both men provided a solid core around which transitional teams swirled and bubbled, while they showcased a greater tactical alacrity in 50-over matches that occasionally eluded them in Tests. His binding together of the injury-strewn 2009 tour party was something few on the tour will forget. Before departing, Bailey consulted Ponting about how best to tackle the current series. There was no better man to ask.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vikram on October 14, 2013, 7:54 GMT

    You have missed a test series here: 2-0: 1978-79, 0-0: 1986-87, 1-0: 1996, 2-1:1997-98, 2-1: 2001, 1-2: 2004-05, 2-0: 2008, AND 2-0:2010!! 4-0 : recently concluded 2012-13 series.

  • sam on October 14, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    Aus' ODI record is impeccable in the so called 'lion's den' having dealt out several big thrashings to home team in a country which is by far the toughest for touring sides - esp. non-subcontinent 1s - and is just 1 of too many glittering feats achieved that arguably the greatest team ever- at the time -have to their name.Though enviable , the record is hardly a 'wonder' when it is achieved by the 'mighty Aussies ' , and the most 'wonder'-ful fact is they would have being favourites going in to almost all those series,a rarity for a visiting team facing Ind.Good article,must say that brought some of the memories of the last great team and their 'wonderful' records.

  • Keith on October 14, 2013, 3:25 GMT

    Chitra Kasinathan, While the bowlers are at it, how about the batsmen joining them at the nets to cope up with 150 + KMH deliveries.

  • Dummy4 on October 13, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    I think Both teams r good, India have better batting line up and Australia have better bowling attack :) both teams r good in fielding :P Australia shown us really disciplined was a good win today.. best of luck Australia

  • Dummy4 on October 13, 2013, 20:13 GMT

    MSD should come at no.4 while chasing .he will have enough overs to counter attack with Raina, Kohli and Jadeja. Please drop Ishant, Ashwin and Vinay and bring in Mishra Unakdat and Zak if available and fit. Else Mohit. Ashwin needs to go back to nets. He is trying different things in a match which is not a testing ground He can do so in the nets. Same applies to Ishant. Hope selectors note this. Let better council prevail. kashinath

  • Chris on October 13, 2013, 19:52 GMT

    I dont think there is any doubt that pitches prepared for for ODIs around the world tend to be flatter than those prepared for Test matches. The interesting thing for mine that is touched on in this article is that there is huge gap between the pitches prepared for Tests and ODIs in India. Add this to the comments from a groundsman who said he specifically prepared the pitch outside leg stump NOT to turn for Shane Warne when he played there and you start to get a clearer picture on some of the differences between Aus Test and ODI fortunes in India. I really enjoyed seeing some the up and coming players from both teams perform in this match and find Baileys' captaincy refreshing. Lets hope for another absorbing contest and a "fair" pitch in the next game.

  • Dummy4 on October 13, 2013, 10:26 GMT

    Daniel has forgotten the 2-0 scoreline in the Test series in India of October 2010. Austalia's first whitewash in over 30 years, home and away.

  • Dummy4 on October 12, 2013, 22:16 GMT

    Well Mr. Brettig .... I can honestly say that I enjoyed reading the reality found in the Comments over your story on the Ancient History of ODI's by Australia in the Subcontinent.

    The evident increase in talent in India is pronounced.

    The decrease in talent in Austra ..... allow me to rephrase this .... the continued selection of substandard players by the Australian Team is ridiculous.

    Doherty and Hughes touring India again.

    Ferguson, Coulter-Nile, Maxwell ..... Australia has better players than this.

    Again I will say "Queensland are the current Domestic OD and T20 Champions (currently hammered with the prospect of 8 games in 16 days to defend their title thanks to the ACB) .... not one Queenslander in the Team!!!"

    The key to the series for the Australian Team will be Aaron Finch and James Faulkner. Hopefully they will be ably supported and the series won't be over by the 5th Game.

  • Dummy4 on October 12, 2013, 19:27 GMT

    The core difference between previous Indian sides & this one - Shreenath, Prasad, Prabhakar & Bhajji was definitely a more potent bowling attack than Ashwin, Jadeja, Bhuvi, Ishant & Vinay....but Raina, Yuvaraj, Dhawan, Kohli, Sharma, Jadeja - as fielders are far better than any previous Indian fielding side that . The quality of the fielding support means these bowlers know that every bad ball they bowl will not be punished. They can relax & bowl, as a result they make fewer mistakes. Eve Ponting / Waugh's original sides would have had their hands full, playing against this Indian side.