There was a time when India had a reputation of turning up at foreign shores merely to put up a fight. Winning a Test, or a series, was something that was almost unfathomable.
It was not like the yesteryear teams didn’t know a thing or two about winning. Ajit Wadekar stunned the world with two historic series wins in the span of a year. New heroes were born and new scripts were written.
The latest page in that book was written by Virat Kohli’s men, who beat a hapless Australian side in their own backyard to lift the Border-Gavaskar series. This was India’s first series win in Australia since they first travelled Down Under in 1947-’48. At the moment, South Africa remain the only major Test playing nation where India haven’t registered a series win.
Here is a list of all of India’s first overseas Test series wins in Test-playing countries:
New Zealand bamboozled (1968)
Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi etched his name in history with the help of spin wizards Bishen Singh Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna. Ajit Wadekar shone with the bat, top-scoring in a series that saw India register a lot of firsts in their Test history. In the first Test in Dunedin, India earned their first-ever win away from home. New Zealand, who were an up-and-coming Test nation, also got their first win against India in the series. But Pataudi backing his spinners was a tactic that paid rich dividends in a country that is widely known for aiding the seamers. India won the series 3-1.
Wadekar’s warriors sobers West Indies (1971)
In many ways, this was a tour that may have set the tone for bigger things to come in Indian cricket. In came Ajit Wadekar, the skipper, who brought in the famous Bombay ‘khadoos’ attitude as a part the team ethos. There were radical changes before this tour. Wadekar replaced Pataudi as captain. BS Chandrasekhar, Farokh Engineer and Rusi Surti were also dropped. A fresh-faced Mumbai batsman, Sunil Gavaskar, was called up for the first time.
And what a move that would turn out to be. The pint-sized batsman tamed the Windies bowlers like a veteran. Another Mumbai great, Dilip Sardesai, also scored big runs and contributed to India’s first Test win in West Indies. Garry Sobers was prolific but could not stop a determined Indian side from walking away with the series.
Chandra spins England out (1971)
Chandrasekhar was back in the side and had a point to prove. The series started with a bang as rain washed away a nail-biter at Lord’s. India needed 38 to win with two wickets in hand before play was called off. In the final Test at The Oval, there was little to suggest that India would walk away with the contest.
England had a 71-run lead in the first innings but Chandrasekhar weaved his magic to leave the hosts spellbound. The leg-spinner picked up six wickets in the second innings to give his team a fighting chance. Chasing a target of 173 was by no means an easy task and India were stuttering at 37/2 after losing openers Gavaskar and Mankad. However, experienced heads Wadekar, Sardesai and young Gundappa Viswanath ensured that India got their first of many memorable wins in England.
Azhar’s men prevail against feisty Lanka (1993)
One of the standout features of India’s first win in Sri Lanka – which came at the SSC ground in Colombo – was that childhood mates Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli scored centuries. The Lankans, despite being far from becoming a top-ranked Test nation, took the fight to India. The visitors had too much firepower in them. Almost all five days of the first Test at Kandy were washed away due to rain. The final Test at P Sara Oval ended in a draw. Sri Lanka, though, had their revenge in the One-day International series, which they won 2-1.
Debutants defeated (2000)
Bangladesh were making their Test debut and, boy, did they give India a fright in the first innings. Anil Kumble was missing from the XI but a competitive attack of Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar were blunted with authority. Aminul Islam, who was instrumental in Bangladesh’s stunning win over Pakistan in the World Cup a year earlier, became his country’s first Test centurion.
However, a stunning all-round effort from Sunil Joshi ensured that India wrestled back momentum. Sourav Ganguly’s men cantered to a nine-wicket win.
Conquering Pakistan (2004)
India had always come out second best against their arch-rivals and were touring Pakistan after a 15-year gap. The Indians had clinched the ODI series and started with a bang in Multan. Virender Sehwag became the first triple-centurion from his country, to set up a massive innings win. A wounded Pakistan hit back in the second Test, convincingly defeating India by nine wickets in Lahore.
But India badly needed this series win. Rahul Dravid’s marathon 270 yet again handed India a big lead. Pakistan once again flopped with the bat and India yet again registered an innings win.
Zimbabwe, finally (2005)
The current generation of cricket fans would find it hard to believe that Zimbabwe were a competitive unit in the 1990s and the early 2000s. Despite winning in the African nation, Indians, somehow could not win a series. Here, India were up against a young side and did not miss the opportunity to get the better of them. Irfan Pathan starred in the first Test with a nine-wicket match haul as India won by an innings and 90 runs.
The second Test also saw the visiting side stroll to an easy win to wrap up the series 2-0. But, the significance of this win was diluted by skipper Ganguly going public with his grievances, stunning cricket fans back home by revealing that coach Greg Chappell had wanted him to step down.
The triumph Down Under (2019)
Australia sorely missed senior batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner, who continued to serve their bans following the infamous ball-tampering scandal in South Africa. All eyes were on captain Virat Kohli before the start of the series but it was pacer Jasprit Bumrah and Cheteshwar Pujara who stole the show.
With both teams winning a Test each, the series was delicately poised but Pujara took control in the last two games. Australia made plenty of unwanted records through the series as their batsmen wilted against the Indian pacers throughout.
Clarification: The article originally mentioned: “South Africa remain the only Test playing nation where India haven’t won a series.” It’s now been corrected to say “only major Test playing nation.”