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Does India have an unfair advantage at home?

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Australia_cricket_Ashes_Test_overseas_conditions_adaptThe ICC just released their latest rankings, and as a South African my first reaction to them was one of disbelief. India comfortably ahead as the no.1 ranked team, with Jadeja and Ashwin joint no.1 in the bowling stakes.

This is a joke? It’s unfair as they only ever play at home! The BCCI runs cricket and now it’s a sham…

I saw similar rumblings on social media, where this narrative is starting to gain some momentum with cricket fans outside of India.

Is it accurate though? Does India have an unfair advantage and play far too much Test match cricket on spin-friendly pitches curated to their pleasure?

Rather than feeding off emotion and one-eyed supporter logic (as tempting as it is for many), I had to go to the stats and find the answers there.

 

In plain view for all to see, there it was. Going into the current Australian series, India had played 13 of their last 20 Test matches at home, and the 7 they did play away were in Sri Lanka and West Indies.

Easy for a team to have a purple patch and for their spinners to run riot when these are the conditions. No Tests in England, Australia or South Africa. This is appalling!

This is just one part of the story though. Let’s get a wider view on this. In the last ten years* India have played 50 Tests at home, and 55 Tests away in various parts of the cricketing world.

 

People can go on about their recent home run, but prior to that hotels were very much their homes. In the period from December 18th, 2013 to September 1st, 2015, they played 17 Test matches. All of which were away. 17 away with the order of opponents being South Africa, New Zealand, England, Australia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Suddenly you start to see a bit of balance here, and suddenly don’t feel too outraged about them topping the rankings right now.

“But their home ground advantage is so much more of an advantage than other countries?” This is debatable as James Anderson can even look decent at home such are the favorable conditions that get set up for him in England.

 

Sure, Jadeja has only taken 21 wickets away from home at an average of 42 in contrast to his home record of 108 wickets at just under 20. Ashwin similarly has only 67 wickets at an average of 33 on the road compared to 202 wickets at 22 at home, but that’s understandable. Conditions often don’t assist them in other parts of the world and it is very hard to pose any consistent threat when you are being nullified. The same could be said for prominent seamers from other countries when playing in certain parts of the world.

India should be applauded for what they have done to get to where they are in Tests, especially as not so long ago many said they didn’t care about the longest format and were only in it for the ‘T20 money’. Not so long ago they also said good bye to some incredible senior pillars in this team. On their tour of Australia in 2013, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dhoni and Harbhajan were still in the team. Losing experience like that takes a while to fully replace, but here they are making the most of the talent they have.

They may still start a Test series in Australia, South Africa and England as underdogs, but not by a huge amount when you consider said opposition.

Test cricket is in a great place right now, and with some huge future tours to look forward to (including India playing away), things will balance out a bit rankings wise. That’s the global schedule, so if you get to the top of the rankings, well bloody done to you!

 

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Ben Karpinski is a South African sports blogger/MC/tweeter with a heart so broken by the Proteas, t...

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