India P 38 W 7 L 15 D 16.
Notably beat Australia, South Africa and New Zealand at home. Lost away series in England, South Africa, West Indies, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Australia. Lost home series to South Africa. Drew with Sri Lanka both home and away and Pakistan at home.
Ganguly and Dravid made their debuts in the same Test match in England in June 1996. It also coincided with Tendulkar rising to his peak – he gave the highest impact performance of his career then. After their sparkling debuts, both Ganguly and Dravid quickly found their feet in international cricket, while maintaining a promising consistency. Laxman joined them later in 1996 and did not make a mark particularly (had a high failure rate) except for a scintillating 167 in Sydney in 1999-2000 in a match India lost by an innings and a series India was hammered in (but it kept Laxman in the mix, which would change the history of Indian cricket a bit later). Tendulkar achieved one series momentum-changing performance against Australia in 1998 (the year he is widely regarded to have been at his peak) but on a collective level, the Indian team was not a force to reckon with in Test cricket, especially away.
Batting IMPACT – The average impact his batting had on matches he played in, on a scale of 0 to 5.
SDs – Series-defining performances. The most important legacy of a cricketer, or at least, what should be.
Failure% - The percentage in this period the player could not achieve an IMPACT of even 1 in the matches he played.
Tendulkar was quite simply at the height of his powers. Despite his team having mixed success, Tendulkar set about achieving excellence in his craft with a single-minded focus that was palpable.
Despite a marginally higher batting average (and having scored one less century), Dravid had a considerably higher impact as batsman than Ganguly, because of greater consistency and a lower failure rate.
TOP 5 HIGHEST IMPACT BATTING PERFORMANCES OF THIS PERIOD
1. M Azharuddin – 5 & 163 not out v South Africa, Kanpur 1996 – Batting IMPACT 7.23
(Series defining performance)
2. S Ramesh – 60 & 96 v Pakistan, Delhi 1999 – Batting IMPACT 6.51
(Series defining performance)
3. SR Tendulkar – 4 & 155 not out v Australia, Chennai 1998 – Batting IMPACT 5.12
(Series momentum-changing performance)
4. SR Tendulkar – 0 & 136 v Pakistan, Chennai 1999 – Batting IMPACT 8.04
5. M Azharuddin – 103 & 48 v New Zealand, Wellington 1998 – Batting IMPACT 5.17
Tendulkar comes in twice here (at nos. 3 and 4) with two of his most memorable innings – a third innings bludgeon (which shared impact with Sidhu, Dravid and Azharuddin) that took the wind out of the Australians in a high-profile series and a fourth innings classic against a strong Pakistan – which would have had even greater impact if India had won. Ironically, the performance ahead of these, at no. 2 is by Ramesh in the same series – his stellar performance all but forgotten in the very next low-scoring match at Delhi where Kumble took 10-74 (while Pakistan chased an impossible 420) and India drew the series 1-1.