Test cricket is a true reflection of life. I know you must have heard that a million times, but the fact is no other form of game tests a cricketer like the five-day format. Which is why a cricketer is always judged by his performances in obscure conditions.
We, in India, often harp about how our players fail to perform in overseas conditions of Australia, England, South Africa, and New Zealand, but seldom do we talk about how celebrated foreign cricketers come to India and by the time they leave, they have their tails firmly between their legs. And, there are many. This article aims at pointing out five such Test legends who struggled to the hilt in Indian conditions.
Here’s a look:
1. Desmond Haynes [WI]
Record in India: Matches: 10 Innings: 18 Runs: 377 Avg: 22.17 50/100s: 2/0 HS: 58
One-half of the greatest opening pairs of all times, Desmond Haynes was a perfect antidote to the flamboyance of the marauding juggernaut that was Gordon Greenidge. A stroke-maker who was particularly strong against pace bowling, Haynes maintained a fine average against all Test-playing nations in almost every country barring India.
Haynes’ struggles on slow sluggish Indian tracks was particularly evident on the West Indies’ tours of India of 1983 and 1987. While he managed a measly 176 runs across ten innings at an average of 17.60, he fared a bit better- but not by his very high standards- in the corresponding tour of 1987, where he scored 201 runs across eight innings at an average of 28.71.
Overall, in 18 innings in India, the broody West Indian scored 377 runs at an average of 22.17 with the help of two half-centuries- a stark contrast from his career average of 42.3 in 116 Tests.
2. Aravinda de Silva [SL]
Record in India: Matches: 10 Innings: 17 Runs: 403 Avg: 25.18 50/100s: 1/1 HS: 110*
Now, this is one name that will raise eyebrows of all a lot of cricket fans of the late 80s and the 1990s, who grew up seeing Aravinda de Silva shellacking the Indians many times. Who can forget his epic counter-attacking knock that took the wind out of the Indian attack in the 1996 World Cup semi-final?
But, when it came to playing Test cricket in India, de Silva- like a plethora of foreign cricketers- wasn’t the same force. De Silva’s first taste of India as a Test batsman came during the 1986 Test series, where he struggled his way to 94 runs across 5 innings at an average of 18.80.
By the time, the year 1994 rolled out, de Silva had established himself as one of the premier batsmen of the world, but India still continued to be his nemesis. During the 1994 Test series in India, de Silva managed just 70 runs across six innings at an average of 11.67.
The stylish right-hander finally broke the Indian hoodoo during the 1997 tour where he emerged as Sri Lanka’s second-highest run-getter- 227 runs in four innings at an average of 75.67- to lend some respectability to his overall numbers in India which read: 403 runs in 17 innings at an average of 25.18, a stark contrast from his career average of 42.98.
3. Muttiah Muralitharan [SL]
Record in India: Matches: 11 Wickets: 40 BBI: 7-100 Avg: 45.45 5-wicket-haul: 2
The only bowler in the history of the game to scale Mount.800; a wizard; someone who could even spin a bowl on the glass; a maverick; a genius; but even the great man found it tough against the Indian batsmen in their den.
Murali got the first taste of Indian conditions in 1994 where he managed 12 wickets at an average of 35.00 However, the worst was still to come and it came during the 1997 three-match Test series, where the champion off-spinner sent down a 121 overs across two Test matches for his three wickets at an average of 103.67.
Murali’s redeemed himself appreciably during the 2005 Test rubber where he scalped 16 wickets in six innings at an average of 31 before things once again headed south, four years later, thanks to Virender Sehwag. In three Tests on what was his last Indian tour, Murali managed just nine wickets at 65.66.
Overall, the champion off-spinner claimed 40 wickets in 11 Tests in India at an average of 45.45- a stark contrast from his career of 22.73.
4. Shane Warne [AUS]
Record in India: Matches: 9 Wickets: 34 BBI: 6-125 Avg: 43.11 5-wicket-haul: 1
Another legendary spinner of the erstwhile era and probably the greatest the leg-spinner of all-time, Shane Warne too didn’t have a great time against India at their own den. And, perhaps, it was just a reflection of how good the likes of Mohammad Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Navjot Singh Sidhu were against the spinners.
The 1998 Test series between India and Australia was built around Sachin vs Warne, and while the leg-spinner drew first blood by dismissing the Master Blaster in the first innings of the Chennai Test, that would prove to be one of the few shining moments for the champion leg-spinner in India.
While Sachin and Sidhu took him to the cleaners in 1998, three years later, it was VVS Laxman, who was coming down the track and driving him either between mid-on and mid-wicket or inside-out through the cover region.
The 2004 tour proved to be a silver lining for not only Australia but also for Warne, who claimed 14 wickets in the four-match series at an average of 30.07.
5. Ricky Ponting [AUS]
Record in India: Matches: 14 Runs: 662 Avg: 26.48 100s: 1 HS: 123
Ricky Ponting’s Test performances against India is a tale of two contrasting halves. While he absolutely murdered the Indian attack in his own den- 1893 runs in 15 Tests at a barely believable average of 86.04- the story was completely different when it came to his exploits in India.
And, one of the prime reasons for his struggles in India was Harbhajan Singh. The ‘turbanator’ had the wood on Ponting throughout his career, dismissing him 10 times in 14 innings.
“My arch nemesis when I was playing against India was Harbhajan Singh. I still get nightmares about him,” Ponting had said back in 2016.
The right-hander endured his worst returns in India during the historic 2001 series where he literally couldn’t buy a run- 17 duns across five innings at an average of 3.40. Ponting finally cracked the Indian code during his sixth visit in 2010 where he racked up 224 runs in two Tests at an average of 56.00.
In 14 Test matches that Punter played in India, he managed a measly 662 runs– 32 runs less than what Virat managed during the 2014 tour of Australia– at an average of 26.48; a start dip from his career average of 51.85.
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