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Why Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team is far behind Ricky Ponting’s Australia

Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team and Ricky Ponting’s Australia have both won nine consecutive Test series, but the difference lies in the quality of their opposition.

cricket Updated: Dec 09, 2017 18:59 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team needs to win overseas in order to be compared to Ricky Ponting’s Australia.
Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team needs to win overseas in order to be compared to Ricky Ponting’s Australia. (HT Photo )

Linking the strength of a team to the number of consecutive Test rubber victories strung together is a myopic way of evaluating greatness. However, India, by virtue of their recent record-equalling nine Test series wins on the trot, are teasing to be analysed if they are that good.

Since a pre-war England was the first team to achieve this feat, the comparison is essentially between the Australia team led by Ricky Ponting and India captained by Virat Kohli. Even then, it looks pretty skewed. How can you consider victories against depleted West Indies and Sri Lanka while seeking greatness?

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The heart of the cricket romantic yearns for a Test team that not only wins away from home but can also dig in to change certain defeats into draws or even miraculous wins. But such is the Future Tours Programme (FTP) that no team could have toured the top three or four cricket nations in the same year. Till now, that is.

Big away challenge

Call it providence or sheer opportunity that India’s next three big Test tours are scheduled away, against South Africa, England and Australia . The only reason behind hyping India’s next year is the high standards set by Australia and West Indies who have proved their greatness over a long period and not just through on-the-trot wins.

Consider the West Indies team that didn’t lose 29 Test series, home or away, between June 5, 1980 and February 13, 1995. That overlapped a period between January 2, 1982 and December 22, 1984 when they didn’t lose any Test. They won 3-0 in India, beat Pakistan in Pakistan, ‘blackwashed’ England 5-0 home and away apart from overwhelming Australia 3-1 Down Under.

UNDEFEATED AUSSIES
Here’s a look at Australia’s streak of nine Test series victories from 2005 to 2008:

Then came the Steve Waugh-led Australia. Had Sourav Ganguly’s India not stopped the juggernaut at Eden Gardens, Australia could have been undefeated 22 series in a row (October 14, 1999 to March 29, 2005). Instead Waugh had to be content with a 16-match winning streak, two undefeated records spanning five and 16 series in a row and series wins in England, South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan (Sri Lanka and UAE hosted), Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

Under Ricky Ponting, Australia went undefeated 22 Test matches in a row between September 8, 2005 and January 2 2008 before India again snapped that streak in Perth after the infamous ‘Monkeygate’ scandal. This span witnessed 16 consecutive Test wins, including a memorable 3-0 series win in South Africa in 2006.

Between 1999 and 2008, Australia played 54 Tests at home, won 45 and lost just two. And had Jacques Rudolph not scored a match-saving century in Perth in 2005, Ponting could have strung together 21 wins in a row.

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Kohli’s record fades in comparison. Out of the nine consecutive series victories, three came against a rebuilding Sri Lanka team and one came against a below-par Windies in subcontinent like conditions. The Kiwis and Proteas never stood a chance on turning pitches but Australia still managed to win in Pune.

Considering the drawn Test in Fatullah in 2015, India are currently undefeated 10 series in a row but they are still one short of their own 11-series undefeated record, set between October 9, 2008 and July 2, 2011. That included series wins in the Caribbean and NZ and a creditable drawn rubber in SA. India, hence, need a lot to prove their worth. Still, winning at home matters.

The stakes were much less against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and New Zealand but had India not won against South Africa, England and Australia they would have been slammed for not being able to exploit home advantage. But they can’t be called great. Not yet.