India's 5 greatest Test series wins abroadNew Delhi: India's series win in Sri Lanka was a terrific team effort with contributions from almost every player.It was special since it came 22 years after the last such success in the island nation.
New Delhi: India's series win in Sri Lanka was a terrific team effort with contributions from almost every player.
It was special since it came 22 years after the last such success in the island nation. Stalwarts such as Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, and even MS Dhoni for that matter, do not have this particular feather in their caps.
You could argue that this is one of the weakest Sri Lankan teams in many years. But it still required tremendous strength of character to recover from the demoralising defeat in the first Test at Galle and fight back to win the series 2-1.
Overseas Test series victories for India are hard to come by, except in Bangladesh, and thus are to be treasured. India have won only 15 Test series overseas of which three were in Bangladesh and one in Zimbabwe. Two foreign fortresses are yet to be breached: Australia and South Africa. India has won Tests in both countries but never a series.
Virat Kohli is now the youngest ever Indian captain to win an overseas Test series. So he has plenty of time to rack up several more triumphs.
Meanwhile, let's take a look at India's five greatest Test series victories overseas:
West Indies, 1970/71
India's first overseas Test series win came in New Zealand in 1967/68 where India won 3-1 under Tiger Pataudi. But the Kiwis were minnows in those days, so it doesn't quite make the cut. Three years later Pataudi was unceremoniously dumped as captain, with Ajit Wadekar being appointed in his place.
India's record against the West Indies before this series was truly horrific. In 23 previous Tests, at home and abroad, India had not even taken the first innings lead once, let alone winning. Now a change of fortune was looming on the horizon.
The first Test was drawn but India got a pyschological victory by taking the first innings lead.
And in the second Test at Port-of-Spain they finally got the monkey off their back.
The star was Dilip Sardesai who made 112 to follow up his ton in the first Test. And don't forget a certain Sunil Gavaskar who launched his Test career with scores of 65 and 67 not out.
The match was still even stevens at the end of Day 3 but on the fourth morning the maverick Salim Durrani dismissed Clive Lloyd and Gary Sobers in successive overs to open the floodgates.
Then the least celebrated of India's legendary spin quartet, S Venkataraghavan, struck to grab five wickets in the second innings and India was left chasing a modest 124.
They won with a day to spare, with Gavaskar hitting the winning boundary.
The remaining three Tests were drawn to give India a much deserved 1-0 series victory. Gavaskar finished with a monumental 774 runs in just four Tests at a staggering average of 154.80.
A few months later, India were touring England. Most of the usual suspects from the West Indies tour were back. But there was one important addition, leggie BS Chandrasekhar, who missed the Windies tour.
India were slightly fortunate to escape with a draw in the first Test at Lord's. Rain ended play after tea on the fifth day with India needing 38 runs for victory but only two wickets in hand. One of the batsmen at the crease was Bishan Bedi and the next man in was Chandra, both notorious rabbits who failed to score in the first innings.
The second Test was also drawn before both teams arrived at The Oval for the final match of the series. England took a handy first innings lead of 71 before collapsing for just 101 the second time round. Chandra was the destroyer, grabbing 6/38 with his fastish leg breaks, googlies and top spinners, besides running out opener John Jameson.
India was helped by some sensational close-in catching especially by Eknath Solkar, whose full length dive at forward short leg to dismiss Alan Knott off Venkataraghavan is one of the most famous images in Indian cricket history.
The target was 173 and the dressing room must have been a bundle of nerves when India slumped to 134/5. But GR Viswanath and Farokh Engineer batted fluently and victory eventually arrived with four wickets to spare. The final day was Ganesh Chaturthi in India and fans back home spent the holiday glued patiently to their radios before celebrating giddily late into the night.
India narrowly missed their first Test series victory in Australia in 1985-86. The series was drawn 0-0, with rain and umpires denying India a triumph Down Under that is still awaited. But they made up for the disappointment in England soon afterwards.
In the first Test at Lord's, Dilip Vengsarkar achieved a unique feat by becoming the first - and so far only - overseas batsman to score three centuries at Lord's. But the Man of the Match was the inspirational skipper Kapil Dev. Returning to the scene where he led India to a World Cup victory in 1983, Kapil took four vital wickets in the England second innings that left India chasing a lowly target of 134.
Then, with India stumbling in the chase, Kapil walked in at No.7 and made a typically devil-may-care unbeaten 23 in 10 balls. In what turned out to be the final over of the game by Phil Edmonds, he smashed 18 runs including the matchwinning six.
The defeat led to David Gower being dumped as captain but it turned out to be a baptism by fire for his replacement Mike Gatting in the following Test at Leeds.
Vengsarkar was again in scintillating touch. The Colonel was indisputably the best batsman in the world at the time, as the Coopers and Lybrand ratings acknowledged, and made another ton.
World Cup heroes Roger Binny and Madan Lal then combined to rout England for 102 and the outcome was a formality. India thrashed England by an even more thumping margin of 279 runs to seal the series with a match to spare.
India had never won a Test, forget a series, on five previous visits to their western neighbours. But the half century long wait since India's first tour of Pakistan in 1954/55 was coming to a close.
Virender Sehwag acquired the honorary title of Sultan of Multan after becoming the first Indian to hit a triple ton in Tests. His rampage ended the Test career of Saqlain Mushtaq who finished with figures of 1/204 and never played for Pakistan again. Sachin Tendulkar was also in good touch and advanced to 194 when, much to his chagrin, skipper Rahul Dravid declared.
India's total of 675 was more than enough and they duly won by an innings after Anil Kumble worked his customary magic later in the game with six wickets in Pakistan's second innings. The hosts, however, hit back by winning the second Test at Lahore.
The teams then adjourned to Rawalpindi, where the two heroes of Multan, Sehwag and Tendulkar made precisely one run between them. But Dravid had luckily handed the captaincy back to Ganguly.
Now 'The Wall' could focus on his batting and he batted on and on and on. His innings of 270 ended after a humongous 12 hours and 20 minutes, the longest by an Indian in Tests. Forgotten medium pacer L Balaji took seven wickets in the match as India again won by an innings.
The word historic is much abused but this victory was really so in every sense.
Yes, we have another England series in the list. India's recent troubles in England have shown how difficult it is to win in conditions where the ball swings extravagantly. In 2011, India was thrashed 4-0 while in 2014, the margin of defeat was only marginally less humbling at 3-1.
But back in 2007, everything fell into place for the Indian team, including luck. In the first Test at Lord's, India were one wicket away when defeat when last man Sreesanth was given not out to a confident lbw shout.
Then the rain poured down and the final session of the match was washed out. Ironically the man who saved the tourists was umpire Steve Bucknor, who later became persona non grata in India.
In the second Test at Nottingham, England made the fatal mistake of provoking Zaheer Khan by placing some jelly beans at the crease when he came out to bat.
The incensed Zaheer, who had already taken four wickets, added five more in the second innings en route to the Man of the Match award as India cantered home by seven wickets.
The final Test was drawn after India won the toss and made 664, with Anil Kumble memorably making his maiden Test ton in his 118th Test.
It was India's first Test series win in England in 21 years. Going by subsequent results, it looks like we may have to wait another 21 years for the next.