ICC Test rankings

How India reached the top

India's ascent to the No.1 position in the ICC Test ratings is largely due to their much-improved performances overseas

Cricinfo staff

December 6, 2009

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India's ascent to the No.1 position in the ICC Test ratings is largely due to their improved performances overseas. There used to be a time, not very long ago, when India hardly won anything when they went abroad - in the 1990s, India played 39 Tests overseas, and their win-loss record was a miserable 1-15, with their only win coming in Sri Lanka. In the 2000s, though, they've won as many games as they've lost, with series wins in England, New Zealand, Pakistan and West Indies, and Test wins in Australia and South Africa.

India's decade-wise win-loss record overseas
Period Tests Won Lost W-L ratio
1960s 16 3 13 0.23
1970s 30 6 12 0.50
1980s 39 3 12 0.25
1990s 39 1 15 0.06
2000s 56 19 19 1.00

During this period, their home record has remained pretty solid, with 21 wins and eight losses. In the 1990s their win-loss ratio was slightly better, but their hopeless stats overseas meant they were hardly ever taken seriously as a contender for one of the top spots. In the 2000s, though, their record is more well-rounded, and their stronger displays overseas have helped them gain respect among the pundits and rating points in the ICC rankings.

India's decade-wise win-loss record at home
Period Tests Won Loss W-L ratio
1960s 36 6 8 0.75
1970s 34 11 7 1.57
1980s 42 8 9 0.88
1990s 30 17 5 3.40
2000s 47 21 8 2.62

The table below indicates India's batting and bowling have both contributed to their improved displays overseas. In the earlier decades the batting lacked the consistency and depth to cope with the extra bounce and seam movement in conditions generally prevalent in England, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. The lack of depth in fast bowling meant opposition batsmen scored off the Indian bowlers pretty comfortably.

In the 2000s, the batting has moved up a notch, while the bowlers have stepped up as well. In the 1990s, the difference between the batting average (30.78) and the bowling average (40.78) was exactly ten runs; in this decade, the difference has come down to 1.50, with both the batsmen and the bowlers contributing almost equally.

India's decade-wise stats in overseas Tests
Period Bat ave 100s/ 50s Bowl ave Strike rate Diff in ave
1970s 29.76 24/ 71 39.38 88.0 -9.62
1980s 30.12 30/ 91 39.79 84.9 -9.67
1990s 30.78 43/ 66 40.78 88.5 -10.00
2000s 34.43 56/ 134 35.93 65.2 -1.50

The four batsmen who've led the batting display overseas have been Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag. Dravid averages 57.08, with 37 fifty-plus scores in 56 Tests. Tendulkar's average is slightly lower, though he has scored as many hundreds as Dravid. Laxman and Sehwag both average in the late 40s, with runs scored all over the world.

Among the bowlers, the difference has primarily been in the pace attack. Many of them have done better overseas than at home, which has made the attack more potent abroad. Zaheer Khan averages almost 38 at home, but his away average drops to 32.08. Sreesanth's average of 35.47 in India drops to less than 29 overseas. Irfan Pathan averages less than two wickets per Test at home, but takes almost five per Test abroad (though some of those away games have been played in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe).

Indian fast bowlers home and away since 2000 (Qual: 25 wickets)
Bowler Home Tests Wickets Average Away Tests Wickets Average Home - away ave
Zaheer Khan 27 71 37.91 41 149 32.08 5.83
Irfan Pathan 14 27 50.33 15 73 25.57 24.76
Javagal Srinath 12 31 30.90 12 43 31.30 -0.40
Ashish Nehra 1 1 66.00 15 42 40.61 25.39
RP Singh 2 0 - 11 40 33.22 -
Sreesanth 7 21 35.47 9 37 28.86 6.61
Ajit Agarkar 8 10 63.00 15 35 50.25 12.75
Ishant Sharma 9 33 27.41 10 21 45.42 -18.01
Munaf Patel 4 13 33.23 8 21 38.00 -4.77

During the 2000s, India's win-loss ratio in overseas Tests is third-best, with only Australia and South Africa doing better. Pakistan and England, teams which have traditionally done pretty well abroad, have both slipped below India.

The numbers are slightly different in the last three years, which also indicates Australia's fall from their lofty heights. During this period South Africa have by far the best win-loss ratio, while India and Australia have both won as many Tests as they've lost.

Win-loss ratios in overseas Tests in 2000s
Team Tests Won Lost W-L ratio
Australia 53 31 13 2.38
South Africa 54 21 18 1.16
India 56 19 19 1.00
Pakistan 44 14 19 0.73
England 57 16 22 0.72
Sri Lanka 43 13 20 0.65
New Zealand 38 8 18 0.44
West Indies 54 6 37 0.16

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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