Virat Kohli-led India clean swept Sri Lanka in a humiliating manner. This is India’s eighth consecutive series win in the longest format since India’s tour of Sri Lanka in 2015. The three away series in the list include India’s tour of Sri Lanka (twice) and a tour of the West Indies last year.
Throughout this period, India’s spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja has been instrumental with consistent match-winning performances, skittling the top Test sides including Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa at home.
With their success at home also came the criticism on India’s inability to adapt in away conditions. But a quick look at the stats shows how home advantage has taken the centre-stage throughout the world cricket.
During the 2011-17 period (since the Test debuts of Ashwin and Jadeja), India have played 67 Test matches, including 32 at home. The subcontinent side has won 24 games at home while 9 in away games.
Out of the 35 away Tests India has played since 2011 season till now, Ashwin has only featured in 20, while Jadeja getting a go in 10 games.
A look at the away record of the top Test teams shows the same dismal trend, with only South Africa boasting a good away record with a win/loss ratio of 1.375 that has been recently dented with a 3-1 loss against England.
So, is the label of home-bullies justified for Ashwin/Jadeja?
During the period under focus (2011-17), India have played 67 Test matches, with 35 being away games. Out of these 35, Ashwin has only featured in 20, while Jadeja (who made his debut a year later than Ashwin) getting a go in 10 games. These are reduced to 15 and 19 respectively if we exclude the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
The main reason evidently behind the exclusion of Ashwin and Jadeja from so many away games is their away record, but also the conditions as well. Both have been rather ineffective in away games against England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The spin-twins enjoy a good record in Sri Lanka – boosted by recent series triumph as well where Ashwin and Jadeja claimed 17 and 13 wickets respectively. But the conditions were a haven for both the bowlers.
Nathan Lyon – after Keshav Maharaj – boasts the best average among the top active spinners while from around the world.
The Sri Lankan veteran Rangana Herath also supports a rather ordinary away average of 35.7 by his standards in games outside Asia. Similarly, Yasir Shah – who has had a great run since his debut in 2014 – failed to make much impact Down Under in Australia and New Zealand. Moeen Ali, Davendra Bishoo and Adil Rashid have been ordinary as well.
Going by this trend, does this mean every spinner outside their home is useless? There is no arguing the fact that bowlers need to adapt and improve their skills according to the conditions, what is the measure to play down the records of Jadeja and Ashwin? It is arguable that the other spinners in the list have been mostly overshadowed by the performances of fast bowlers in their squads – an aspect that India has lacked in recent times. In comparison, Jadeja and Ashwin have been the centre-stage of Indian victories. Stats talk for themselves, and both Ashwin and Jadeja have been impeccable in taking India to the top spot in the ICC Test rankings.
Lastly, it is unfortunate that the teams have not been able to tackle the home factor in away games, with perhaps only South Africa coming close to being called a well-rounded squad throughout the world – although things look shaky with recent Kolpak deals and senior players like AB de Villiers planning to retire from the longest formats.
If fast bowlers become the focus outside Asian conditions, similar respect must be given to the spinners in Asian conditions. With India currently dominating the charts, consistent performances from the pace attack can make India succeed even in the away games.
The writer tweets @khaledumair