When one looks at overseas bogies for Team India, Australia and South Africa feature prominently. In South Africa, they have won three Tests in 26 years and have never achieved a series win. Their record is woeful in Australia, where they have won just six Tests in 71 years of touring Down Under. After winning the first Test in Adelaide by 31 runs, Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team squandered the advantage by losing the Perth Test by 146 runs. Heading into the Melbourne Test on Boxing Day, the stakes cannot get any higher. India head into the match low on confidence after once again encountering a worrying trend in overseas games. They also encounter excess historical baggage at a venue which is considered one of their ultimate bogey grounds.
Before the start of the series, the major concerns regarding India’s obstacles to victory were lower order batting from the opposition and batting collapses. The first point of the opposition tail wagging almost hurt India in Adelaide but stung them hard in Perth. India’s batting did not collapse in heaps in Adelaide but their collapse syndrome was repeated in the second Test. However, a third problem has cropped up in overseas tour and that is the failure to maintain a lead after winning or drawing the first game of the series.
In the last 15 years, India has won the series after winning or drawing the first game only twice in the SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia). In 2007 against England, they drew the Lord’s Test, won the Trent Bridge game and ultimately their first series win after 21 years. In 2009 against New Zealand, they won in Hamilton and drew the Napier and Wellington Tests to secure a series win in New Zealand after 41 years. Apart from these two instances, the story has been painful for India.
In 2003, after winning the Adelaide Test, India squandered the advantage in Melbourne to lose by nine wickets against Australia. In 2006, they won the first Test against South Africa in Johannesburg only to spectacularly implode in Durban and Cape Town. In 2013, they drew the Johannesburg Test but lost in Durban against South Africa. In 2014, they drew the Trent Bridge Test and won in Lord’s but they lost heavily in Southampton, Old Trafford and at The Oval to lose the series 3-1 to England. The inability to sustain the lead in a long series continues to hurt India and they face an uphill task to correct it at a venue where they have a horror record.
In foreign countries, India has plenty of bogey grounds – meaning venues where India do not have a great record. Melbourne is one such ground which has given India plenty of nightmares. It is hard to imagine that this is the same venue which gave India their first-ever Test win in Australia in 1977. It was the sight of the most heroic performance by an Indian in 1981 when Kapil Dev, injured groin and all, bowled Australia out for 83 to give India victory by 59 runs.
However, that was the last instance of glory. India have endured nothing but pain in 37 years, losing four and drawing two games. Melbourne is in the long list of bogey grounds for India overseas. Sydney, the venue of the New Year Test, Edgbaston, Basin Reserve in Wellington, Newlands in Cape Town and Supersport Park in Centurion, Kensington Oval in Barbados and Harare in Zimbabwe are the others. Out of 57 Tests played at these venues, they have won just five games and have a win-loss ratio of just 0.135, which is the worst among all teams with more than 20 Tests.
India will have to overcome a massive baggage of history and numbers if they have to create history. Breaking a 37-year hoodoo is the ideal way to ensure India end their overseas jinx.