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Sanjay Manjrekar

How India's overseas record takes the sheen off their home performances

The fans of today have got used to India winning at home; they want to see them beat the world's best abroad - which they hardly ever get to see

Sanjay Manjrekar
Sanjay Manjrekar
The heavy defeats in England and Australia in 2011 and 2012, and the other overseas losses since then still hurt  •  Getty Images

The heavy defeats in England and Australia in 2011 and 2012, and the other overseas losses since then still hurt  •  Getty Images

I can completely understand why Virat Kohli is unhappy with the media and with former cricketers in media. In fact, most players through their careers have generally felt the same; they have just not been as expressive as Kohli has been recently.
Players are sensitive creatures and loathe criticism, especially from former cricketers. They devise different methods to handle it through their careers, and Kohli seems to have chosen this particular way. As a player, I was once very upset with what Dilip Vengsarkar had written about me in one of his columns, and confronted him privately on it.
But this is not me defending Kohli but rather attempting to explain why he and his team have not quite got the kind of applause they wanted after beating a top-ranked team 3-0.
Kohli as captain obviously expected accolades to come from all directions, but as it turned out, it wasn't quite like that - barring, to some extent, the last Test, where I think no one grudged India their win.
Virat Kohli, now that he is India's Test captain, must not forget that he is captaining in the year 2015. This same performance in the pre-'90s era, would have got him the response he wanted - plenty of fanfare, celebration and adulation from the fans and media. Such wins were a big deal then.
But in 2015, Indian cricket has moved on, so also people in the media, who now see India's win on turning pitches to beat a strong overseas team as nothing more than an old trick - one they have seen many times before. It's a case of been there, done that: an old trick performed by a new person.
In 1996, when South Africa were in India for a three-Test match series, they came back from being 1-0 down to beat India in Kolkata on a good Indian pitch. India were desperate to win the final Test, in Kanpur, so out came the rank turner and they won the game, and the series, comfortably.
Indian cricketers mirror the qualities of the youth of India - they are not intimidated by a foreign territory anymore
Before this series, when South Africa have lost to India in India, it has been on turners - in 2008 in Kanpur and in Kolkata in 2010.
So it's an act that has been performed on stage many times before and it does not impress the audience as much today as it once did. Perhaps the extreme turning nature of the pitches in Mohali and Nagpur just added to this feeling.
This is a bit hard on the Indian team, though. We must not forget, this is a very young Test team, where Ishant Sharma is the most experienced player. And Kohli, you can see, is genuinely trying to make a difference as captain.
So they are thinking: the pitch is the same for both teams and one still has to play well to win 3-0; If South Africa were a great Test side, they should have found a way to beat India on such pitches too, like some great visiting teams in the past have done. It's a sentiment you can understand.
There is one main underlying reason why Kohli and his boys have not quite got the credit they feel they deserve, and that is to do with how India play overseas after their home wins. That is the root cause of why Indian fans and media are not over the moon when India beat a team like South Africa 3-0 in India.
And really, Kohli should not take all this personally at all. It is Indian cricket that the fans and the media have an issue with. It is India's abysmal overseas record that dampens the fans' enthusiasm when India win at home these days. Every time India beat a visiting team soundly at home, they then go overseas and lose badly.
Now if India had an impressive overseas record, and they then prepared pitches to suit themselves at home, to improve their home record too, the media and the fans would actually enjoy that joyride with the Indian team.
Today, with India growing economically and getting more attention in the world, the self-confidence of the Indian in the world is growing too. He does not think of himself as being inferior to anyone. This was not the case until my time.
I would watch with slight amusement, how players' self-esteem would visibly drop when we set foot in a foreign country. Cricketers who behaved like kings at home turned into common subjects overseas. It was right there that we lost the contest - what happened on the field eventually was just a reiteration.
Overseas wins have been sporadic and infrequent for India, and it would not be wrong to say they have mostly been aberrations in a generally poor overseas record.
As India changed, Indian cricket started to change too. The body language of the players when they are in a foreign country now is not as it used to be in my day, and that is a big plus. They now walk out at Lord's like they would at Green Park in Kanpur. Indian cricketers mirror the qualities of the youth of India - they are not intimidated by a foreign territory anymore. Still, they lack skills as a team in those conditions.
There was a time in Indian cricket, in the 1940s, when an Indian captain said that he wished Don Bradman would get his 100th hundred against India, and that it would be a great privilege. Indian teams in those times were just happy to be in a foreign land, I suppose.
After that, as Indian cricket evolved, and started producing some truly world-class players, Indian fans and media went to matches mainly to watch these players perform, to see an Indian stand up to the mighty West Indians or the Australians or English. If an Indian win came along on the way, it was a big bonus. Expectations from the team were low.
After 2000, as the self-confidence of Indians grew on the world stage, their expectations from their national team in their favourite sport swelled too. They now want their team to make them proud there, not here.
On the big stage, winning at home is great, but it is not such a big deal for the fans, especially because the hurt from the overseas losses runs deep and home wins don't seem to quite erase the bad memories. The 4-0 losses in England and Australia in 2011 and 2012 and the following series losses in South Africa, New Zealand, and England and Australia again, still linger, like a dull ache in the body.
India have been playing Test cricket for 83 years, and their board is the richest cricket body in the world. The modern Indian cricket fan and media want more from their team. They have become ambitious; they won't settle for good, they want the best. They want their team to whip Australia, South Africa and England in their backyards.
It's a steep expectation, some might think a bit unfair too, and it's one that Indian captains of the '70s, '80s or '90s didn't have to carry, but the Indian captain of 2015 will have to.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. His Twitter feed is here