Numbers Game

Bad tourists

Over the last ten years, teams have lost more than twice as many matches as they have won when playing overseas, a record which is much worse than in earlier years

S Rajesh
S Rajesh
Australian players watch England's celebrations, England v Australia, 5th Investec Ashes Test, The Oval, 4th day, August 23, 2015

Australia have a 34-8 win-loss against the top seven teams in home Tests, but overseas their records slips to 17-23  •  Getty Images

Home advantage has always been a significant factor in cricket, but over the last few years it seems to have become an even bigger influence than before. The recent Ashes series showed that Australia's batsmen can't handle the seaming ball very well at all; over the last couple of years they struggled similarly against the turning ball in Asia, losing handily in India and the UAE (against Pakistan). England themselves have won each of the last four home Ashes series, but were blanked 5-0 in Australia and 3-0 against Pakistan in the UAE. The teams from the subcontinent have generally had problems when playing away from home, with India losing 15 out of 25 away Tests before the series win in Sri Lanka.
With players touring other countries more often - for franchise-based 20-over tournaments and other A tours - you'd expect better numbers for away team, but that hasn't been the case in Tests, at least. Since the beginning of 2010, the top seven teams in Test cricket (excluding West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) have a dismal 37-81 win-loss record in away Tests against one of these seven opponents. (Tests in the UAE are counted as home Tests for Pakistan and away for the opposition.) The win-loss ratio is similar to what it was between 2005 and 2009 as well, but before that the ratios were much better: between 2000 and 2004 it was almost 0.8.
Home teams have generally enjoyed great results recently, but the one year when the home skew crossed all limits was in 2013, when, in Tests among these seven teams, the away teams had a combined win-loss record of 1-21. It started with New Zealand losing 2-0 in South Africa, Pakistan losing three in South Africa, Australia losing four in India and then three in England, and finally England losing four in Australia late in the year. (They lost one in January 2014.) The only away win was South Africa beating Pakistan in the UAE (which, for the purposes of this exercise, is considered a home Test for Pakistan).
Excluding 2013, the win-loss ratio for away teams since 2010 is a slightly more respectable 0.60 (36 wins, 60 defeats). In 2015, away teams have done comparatively better, achieving a 7-7 record, excluding Tests involving West Indies. When they are included, the away teams' record improves to 10-9, which makes this one of the best years for away teams in recent times. India and Pakistan won two Tests each in Sri Lanka, while Australia won two and New Zealand one in England. Compared to other recent years, those are pretty good numbers for away teams.
Away record for the top teams in Tests since 1990
Period Wins Losses Ratio
Jan 2010 onwards* 37 81 0.46
Jan 2005 to Dec 2009* 31 64 0.48
Jan 2000 to Dec 2004* 44 56 0.79
Jan 1990 to Dec 1999# 71 129 0.55
Jan 1980 to Dec 1989^ 51 74 0.69
* Excludes Tests involving West Indies, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe
# Excludes Tests involving Zimbabwe and Bangladesh
^ Includes Tests where the top six teams - Aus, Eng, Ind, NZ, Pak, WI - played each other
In the period between 2000 and 2004, there was one team that dominated almost every time they played, no matter what the venue: Australia had a 17-5 win-loss record in away Tests (including a couple of wins against Pakistan in the UAE). Their only notable defeat during this period was the 1-2 series loss in India in 2001; they also lost a Test each in England, South Africa and in India (in 2004) but won each of those series. Pakistan were 5-6 in these Tests and England 7-9, but Australia were head and shoulders above everyone else during this period, which helped beef up the overall overseas record. Excluding Australia, the overseas record for the other six teams between 2000 and 2004 was 27-51 (ratio of 0.53), which isn't much better than the win-loss ratios since then.
A team-wise look at the home and away numbers over the last ten years shows that all teams other than South Africa have struggled overseas during this period. South Africa are the only team who have won more than they have lost, with a 13-9 record outside home (excluding Tests in West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). During this period they have won seven out of 13 overseas series, drawn four and lost just two - to Australia and Sri Lanka. The last of those losses came in 2006, since which time they have an incredible 13-5 win-loss record.
Australia's away record has fallen drastically since their days of unchallenged domination, but their win-loss ratio of 0.74 is still second among all teams, though it's well below the numbers for South Africa. Ironically, the one country where they have consistently performed well during this period is South Africa - they have an 8-3 record in that country, compared to 4-10 in England, and 1-10 in Asia. (All these numbers exclude Tests in West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Australia's stats also exclude the Tests played against Pakistan in England, which is a neutral venue for both teams.)
Apart from South Africa and Australia, all other teams have lost more than twice as many matches as they have won away from home. England have generally been extremely efficient at home, but have a 11-24 record away, though they had a couple of excellent series wins in Australia and India during this period. India have fared slightly worse than England, but a bit better than Pakistan.
At home, though, most of these teams have formidable records - South Africa is the only one with similar win-loss ratios at home and away. Australia have largely been unstoppable at home, winning four Tests for every defeat, while India have a ratio of more than 3.5. Pakistan have played 20 of their 28 home Tests in the UAE during this period, but they have the same win-loss in those Tests (9-3) as they do in eight Tests in Pakistan (3-1). It's interesting that for quite a few of those teams, their away batting averages are similar to their home bowling averages, and vice-versa.
Over the next few months, some of these teams will have to tackle challenging overseas assignments: England have tours to the UAE and South Africa lined up, while South Africa tour India. Australia start favourites against Bangladesh, but their iffy record in Asia and their inexperienced squad should give the home team plenty of hope. And then there's West Indies, who will tour Sri Lanka to try to improve standards that have dipped miserably over the last ten years. Since 2005, they have a 1-28 win-loss record overseas, excluding Tests in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Even against a Sri Lankan team that has suffered more losses than in any previous home season, it'll be a tall order to expect them to add to that one victory.
Home-away Test stats for teams since Jan 2005
  Away Home
  W/ L Ratio Bat ave Bowl ave W/ L Ratio Bat ave Bowl ave
South Africa 13/ 9 1.44 40.66 37.12 22/ 14 1.57 34.58 28.42
Australia 17/ 23 0.74 34.10 33.78 34/ 8 4.25 43.21 30.17
England 11/ 24 0.46 31.02 36.56 31/ 14 2.21 36.66 31.19
India 10/ 25 0.40 31.93 42.90 22/ 6 3.66 42.90 34.62
Pakistan 8/ 24 0.33 29.78 36.41 12/ 4 3.00 44.07 36.22
Sri Lanka 5/ 19 0.26 31.67 45.18 17/ 11 1.55 35.95 31.62
New Zealand 4/ 21 0.19 26.16 38.45 7/ 11 0.64 32.09 37.14
All stats exclude Tests against West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Tests in the UAE are considered home Tests for Pakistan, and away Tests for their opponents.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter