Caribbean outing a prelude to bigger tests

Kingston -- There is a reason why the Australia teams led by Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting still set benchmarks in the 50-over format.

From the World Cup win at Lord's in 1999 to the one at the Wanderers four years later, Australia won 77 of the 100 ODIs they played and won every series abroad barring one in South Africa and another in Sri Lanka.

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From the 2003 World Cup win to the farcical triumph at the Kensington Oval in 2007, Ponting's Australia won 92 of the 128 ODIs they played, including an almost three-year period when they did not lose a series abroad.

While there's no doubting India's supremacy after winning the World Cup and Champions Trophy in the space of two years, they are not quite close to equalling Australia's feat. The latter were especially careful not to let go of an opportunity to win anything, anywhere.

At a crossroad

On the road for more than 40 days and spanning two climatically different regions, India are at the same crossroad in the Caribbean. Their performance in the next two games against the West Indies and Sri Lanka in Port of Spain will decide whether they can buck the trend.

For, if you consider India's history in ODIs, they haven't been dominating when it comes to tri-series and bilateral series abroad.

Since the World Cup triumph, India have played two tri-nation tournaments (see box), the Commonwealth Bank Series and Asia Cup, and lost miserably in both. In bilateral engagements, India have won two out of three series away, against Sri Lanka and West Indies.

While the Sri Lanka series was a thumping 4-1 win, India were not entirely convincing in their 3-2 victory against the West Indies in 2011.

Apart from the 1-2 loss to Pakistan at home, India have been invincible at home. But it's time again to get their record straight away from home. Not only because they need to build on the success of the Champions Trophy, but also to prepare for the 2015 World Cup in Australia.

Australia present a different prospect for India. The crowds can be boisterous, the pitches tend to be bouncy and the outfields are big and slow. So, it won't be just skill that will get India across the rope but also a lot of athleticism and positive will.

That can only stem from doing consistently well abroad. India aced the first test with the Champions Trophy.

They have tours lined up against Zimbabwe, South Africa and then New Zealand early next year. India still have distance to cover. It begins here in the Caribbean.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.


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