Or so it appears. Upon closer examination, it is clear that the three series played out quite differently. Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri have repeatedly said that the scoreline didn't reflect the competitiveness of the series, and while you could argue that results are what ultimately matter, there is undoubtedly some truth in what the captain and coach have been saying.
Let us leave aside the Lord's Test, in which India were hammered by an innings and 159 runs; in the other three losses, the margins were 31, 60 and 118 runs. That is a total margin of 209 runs, which is less than their margin of defeat in one game at Trent Bridge in 2011 (319 runs), and in Southampton in 2014 (266 runs). Apart from that Trent Bridge loss, India's other defeats in 2011 were by 196 runs, an innings and 242 runs, and an innings and 8 runs. In 2014, their two defeats other than at Southampton were both by an innings.
The key difference this time around was the bowling. In 2011, India averaged 11.75 wickets per Test and conceded almost 60 runs per wicket; in 2014, it was 12 and 44; this time, India nabbed 17 wickets per Test, and conceded only 31 runs per wicket. England were bowled out seven times in the series, with the only declarations coming at Lord's and in the second innings at The Oval.
The ratio between runs conceded and scored per wicket tells the story: in 2011, they conceded more than twice as many runs per wicket as they scored; three years later it was slightly better at 1.73; this time, the ratio was much better at 1.22. Unlike on the two previous tours, the pace attack was outstanding, averaging less than 29 as a group. Ishant Sharma had struggled in 2011, but he was much better three years later and superb this time around, while Mohammed Shami was desperately unlucky to not finish with a better bowling average than 38.87 in this series.
Conditions were tough for batting this time around, which meant India's top order struggled almost right through the series, but thanks largely to Kohli, the overall batting numbers were similar to those from the two previous tours.
Among the batsmen, Kohli was obviously the huge improvement over 2014, while Cheteshwar Pujara did much better as well. M Vijay missed out in the two Tests he played, while Shikhar Dhawan's consistent mediocrity in both series suggests India might have to look elsewhere when they tour Australia later this year.
The 4-1 scoreline was undoubtedly disappointing for India, but the series numbers, especially the bowling stats, indicate that there was little resemblance between this tour and the two previous drubbings in England.