Great Indian Test Series Victories of the 21st Century and How They Compare with the 4-0 Series Win Over England in 2016 (Part 1)

This Indian Test side led by Virat Kohli and coached by the legendary Anil Kumble will take some stopping. India’s victory in the final Test in Chennai, which helped them win the five-Test series against England 4-0, is a solid proof of the steadfastness and resourceful nature of this side, qualities that will allow them to rack up one Test series victory after another, at least in home conditions.

Over the years, we have described the Indian captains as being a little timid and seen them not show ambition for winning Test matches if a series has already been won or if India have had a series lead. But the current Indian Test captain is head and shoulders above his predecessors, MS Dhoni, Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid (in that order), in almost every aspect, and again, what we cannot fail to acknowledge is the rich resources Virat Kohli the captain has at his disposal.


A captain is and often can be just as good as his team is!

The Oval Test match against England in 2007 and the Dominica Test match against the West Indies in 2011 are prime examples of Indian captains’ lack of ambition to go for wins in the final Tests of three-Test series and win those series more emphatically than they managed to in the end. A Rahul Dravid-led India secured a 1-0 Test series win against England in England in 2007 and an MS Dhoni-led Indian side beat West Indies in a three-Test series 1-0 as well.

Alastair Cook’s England folded meekly, we have to admit, on the final day in Chennai, as they lost their last six second innings wickets in the final session, which they went into at 167-4. While the Englishmen lacked the fight to salvage a draw, you have to take your hats off to Ravindra Jadeja for toiling away on what was a flat pitch which I did not expect to produce a result, and for producing his best figures (7-48) in an innings and in a Test match (10-154). India went on to win the Chennai Test by an innings and 75 runs, to win the 2016 five-Test series at home against England 4-0.


Why Has Virat Kohli not Been Named in the ICC Test Team of the Year 2016?

After escaping what could potentially have been a defeat in Rajkot, Kohli’s India didn’t just win the next four but they cantered to victories in Visakhapatnam (by 246 runs), Mohali (by eight wickets), Mumbai (by an innings and 36 runs), and Chennai (by an innings and 75 runs). In short, the hosts dominated England in every facet, and the manner of defeats will hurt Cook and company more than any other aspect.

2016 has been a fantastic year for the Indian Test side in particular, as they end this calendar year as the No. 1-ranked Test side in the world, losing none of the 12 Tests they played. But where does the 4-0 series win against England, which was completed on Tuesday, rank among India’s Test series victories of the 21st century?

India’s Great Test Series Victories Since 2001

Almost every Test series India have played since 2001 has carried some sort of a significance and hence, each Test series victory has had one or the other speciality about it.

Examples of great Indian Test series victories since 2001:

Back in 2001,

India were not the force they are today. That Indian side was lacking direction, badly needed a leader who can provide them direction, furnish a winning mentality, and make India a cricketing force and give an identity, ultimately. On the other hand, the visiting Australia were the best side across formats at that time, even though India had been a frontier where the Kangaroos had not won a Test series since 1969-70.

In the first Test at the old Wankhede Stadium, Australia decimated India, by 10 wickets, and took a 1-0 series lead into the second Test at the Eden Gardens. They made a wonderful start to the Kolkata Test, too, piling on 445 in the first innings on a good batting pitch and making the life of an already beleaguered Indian side even harder. India were bowled out for 171 in their first innings and Australia enforced the follow-on. What transpired on days three, four and five was unreal, with VVS Laxman (281 in the second innings), Harbhajan Singh (13-196 in the match) and Rahul Dravid’s (180 in the second innings) performances helping the Sourav Ganguly-led India shock the Aussies, take the world by storm and attain parity in the three-Test series, most importantly.

*Team India became just the third team to win a Test match after being asked to follow on. 

The victory against Australia in the 2001 Kolkata Test provided belief, more than anything else, to the Indian side, that they were capable of fighting back from any game situation.

The greatness of the Kolkata Test always seems to dwarf the thrilling nature of the winner-takes-all 2001 Chennai Test. But India nearly self-sabotaged on day five, chasing a gettable 155, and lost the Test and the series. Harbhajan Singh, who was the hero of this Indian Test series victory, hit the winning runs with the bat, fittingly, and took his team over the line by just two wickets.

India v Australia 2001 Chennai Test
Harbhajan Singh was one of the heroes of India’s 2001 home series win over Australia and hit the winning runs in the series-deciding Chennai Test
Image source: ESPN Cricinfo

*The 2001 home series against Australia was the landmark series of Harbhajan Singh’s career.

Australia didn’t know what had hit them, as the 10-wicket win in Mumbai had no trace whatsoever three weeks down the line.

I’ll let you decide whether this 2-1 home series victory against Australia in 2001 is India’s greatest of this century. For now, continue reading!

In 2004,

India visited Pakistan, having never won a Test or an ODI series. So, the fact that India had not won a series on Pakistan soil, having been on five tours since 1954-55, was the greatest significance of this tour.

By this time, however, Sourav Ganguly had stamped his authority on the Indian side and made them resilient. Between the 2001 home series win against Australia and the tour of Pakistan in 2004, the Indian cricket team had registered some memorable and groundbreaking victories on foreign soil: the commanding victory in the Headingley Test in 2002 by an innings and 46 runs, the NatWest Tri Series victory in 2002, the six-wicket victory over Pakistan at the SuperSport Park in Centurion in a 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup game, and the four-wicket win in the 2003 Adelaide Test come to mind instantly.

But Pakistan as a frontier and a rivalry was very different and a lot more intense back then than what the India-Pakistan rivalry has morphed into. So, tension and nerves were prevalent.

On a batting beauty in Multan, where the first Test of a three-match series was played, India, thanks to Virender Sehwag’s swashbuckling 375-ball 309, which had 39 fours and six towering sixes, and Sachin Tendulkar‘s 194*, India made a whopping 675 in their first innings, and this huge first innings total paved the way for their winning by an innings and 52 runs.

India, though, did not run away with the series after the victory in Multan and the Inzamam-ul-Haq-led Pakistan responded strongly in Lahore. On a seamer-friendly pitch, the hosts reinforced their pace attack by adding Umar Gul and this change in personnel helped them neutralise India’s forte, their batting, and gain an upper hand in the Test. Pakistan restricted the visitors to just 287 in the first innings and then drove home the advantage by putting up 489 and giving India a mountain to climb, to potentially only be able to save the Test. The Indian batting line-up underperformed again in the second innings, to let Pakistan win by 10 wickets.

The see-saw nature of this fierce battle continued in Rawalpindi, where the Pakistan batting line-up, as if it had been given its due, failed. Ganguly, who missed the first two Tests due to a back injury, returned to lead the side, allowing Rahul Dravid to concentrate on his batting. Pakistan mustered just 224 in their first innings and India, in response, had Dravid anchoring the innings and making what proved to be his highest Test score (270). This innings of Dravid and half-centuries from Parthiv Patel, VVS Laxman and Ganguly helped India post a mammoth 600 in their first innings. Pakistan’s poor showing in the first innings meant that the best they, now, could do was bat resiliently and draw the Test, to ensure they kept their record of having never lost on home soil to India, intact. But the now Indian Cricket Team’s coach was far too incisive with the ball and aided by Lakhsmipathy Balaji, bowled India to a victory by an innings and 131 runs.

2004 Rawalpindi Test, India v Pakistan
By this time, India, who were only competitors previously, started turning into conquerors, under Sourav Ganguly
Image source: ESPN Cricinfo

*India won the three-Test series against Pakistan 2-1 and a frontier had been conquered!

Because the opponent was Pakistan and India had never before won in Pakistan, this Test series victory will remain special and needless to say, be one of India’s great Test series victories of this century!

Read part two of this article here, as we have looked back at the other great Indian Test series victories and assessed whether the 4-0 series triumph against Alastair Cook’s men has been the greatest of this century.