James Matthey of news.com.au looks closely at India's run as the number one side in world cricket.

By beating Australia in the Test series that finished in Dharamsala on Tuesday, India ensured it finished atop the ICC Test rankings yet again.

It's the second year running India has accomplished the feat (the cut-off date being April 1), this time finishing ahead of South Africa in second while the Aussies sit third on the list.

Steve Smith's men can consider themselves unlucky not to be where South Africa is. Up one-nil in its three-Test series against New Zealand, the Proteas escaped with a draw in Hamilton when rain prevented a ball from being bowled on the final day (Wednesday).


South Africa was 5/80 in its second innings, still trailing the hosts by 95 runs. All signs pointed to a New Zealand victory, which would have relegated Faf du Plessis and his troops to third on the Test rankings.

But the dark clouds saved them and they now have even more reason to brag after a comprehensive series win over the Aussies last summer.

Some may argue the legitimacy of South Africa's claim to second spot given it was aided by rain, but that's cricket. It's a snub Australia will have to accept, and the reality is it could have been avoided by winning more than the solitary Test in India (for the record, India only needed to win one match to retain its No. 1 ranking).

India receives a $1 million cash prize from the ICC for its achievement, but is it deserved?
By taking the number of Test match and series wins on face value, yes. But Virat Kohli and Co. are hiding a dirty little secret.


India's recent Test record is imposing, there's no doubt about that.

It has now won its past seven Test series, losing only two of 24 matches in that time.
Here's a rundown of how those results went, with the number of Tests in each series in brackets.

2017: India beat Australia 2-1 (4)
2017: India beat Bangladesh 1-0 (1)
2016: India beat England 4-0 (5)
2016: India beat New Zealand 3-0 (3)
2016: India beat West Indies 2-0 (4)
2015: India beat South Africa 3-0 (4)
2015: India beat Sri Lanka 2-1 (3)

The last time India lost a Test series was back in the summer of 2014/15 when Australia beat it 2-0.

However, of those series listed above, only two of them - against the West Indies and Sri Lanka - were played away from home. India has been virtually unbeatable for two years, but when you're playing in your own backyard nearly all the time, isn't that to be expected?

Playing in Sri Lanka wouldn't be as tough an ask for the Indians as other tourists because the slow, turning tracks there are similar to what they've grown up playing on at home.

Likewise, gone are the days when fast bowlers licked their lips at the prospect of bowling on a quick wicket in the Caribbean. Now you're more likely to consider playing two spinners as a visiting side when you go to the West Indies.

So the past two times in two years India has had to visit the international terminal at the airport, it's been to play in conditions not dissimilar to what it already faces on a regular basis.

Given the biggest challenge international teams face is performing in different conditions away from home, is it unfair to suggest India has been given an easy ride? To be the No. 1 Test nation in the world, shouldn't you have to prove you can perform when not everything - pitches, crowd support, weather - is stacked in your favour?


The numbers tell a vastly different story when looking at what India has dished up abroad. To go with the series wins over Sri Lanka and the West Indies already mentioned, India also won an away series the last time it played Zimbabwe way back in 2005.

Zimbabwe is now ranked 10th in the world.

But apart from those efforts, the rest of the tale makes for grim reading.

Here are the results from the last time India played each country outside the subcontinent (excluding the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe).
2014/15: Australia beat India 2-0 (4)
2014: England beat India 3-1 (5)
2013/14: New Zealand beat India 1-0 (2)
2013/14: South Africa beat India 1-0 (2)
2005/06: Pakistan beat India 1-0 (3)

Again, it's nothing new for teams to struggle away from home. But India has been the beneficiary of an incredibly kind schedule in recent times, and while there's no doubting how skilful its players are, you also can't argue it would find it much tougher to be No. 1 in the world if forced to travel more often.

Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are world class spinners who dismantle batting line-ups for fun. Ashwin (21 wickets) and Jadeja (25 wickets) caused the Aussies all sorts of problems on their recent tour, but they aren't nearly as effective when playing overseas.

Ashwin for example has taken 21 wickets in six Tests in Australia at the whopping average of 54.71 and went wicketless in his only outing in the whites in South Africa.
By comparison, his home record is outstanding. He's taken 208 wickets in 32 Tests at an average of 22.64.

Jadeja averages 46.66 per wicket in England, where he's taken nine scalps in four Tests. In two Tests in New Zealand he's picked up three wickets at an average of 85.66.

Like Ashwin, it's a far cry from his home record. The left-arm orthodox bowler has taken 121 wickets in 22 Tests at an average of 19.88.

Without its trump cards firing overseas, India struggles. And the harsh truth is those trump cards misfire too often in foreign lands.


The Aussies aren't blameless when it comes to faltering overseas. They were awful in Sri Lanka last year and outplayed by England in 2015, but did enjoy success in New Zealand and had a memorable triumph over South Africa in 2014.

Here are Australia's recent overseas results.
2017: Australia lost to India 1-2 (4)
2016: Australia lost to Sri Lanka 0-3 (3)
2016: Australia beat New Zealand 2-0 (2)
2015: Australia lost to England 2-3 (5)
2015: Australia beat West Indies 2-0 (2)
2014: Australia lost to Pakistan 2-0 in the UAE (2)
2014: Australia beat South Africa 2-1 (3)

This proves the Australians aren't immune to the trappings of travelling either. David Warner has copped plenty of heat for failing in India recently, leading many to suggest his inferior record overseas makes him a flat track bully.

And ever since England's quicks destroyed the Aussie batsmen in 2005 with reverse swing, question marks have arisen over their ability to play the moving ball. It's a topic that has come up on every tour of England since.

The purpose here isn't to suggest Australia should be No. 1 in the world in place of India, but rather just to illuminate one of the key factors behind India being able to maintain its place at the top of the tree for the past two years.

But hey, the players don't have a say where they play. It's hardly Virat Kohli's fault his men get the opportunity to strut their stuff in front of home fans so often. That's up to the governing bodies to decide.

So maybe we should just enjoy India's brilliance while we can.