Does home advantage keep all cricket teams tigers at home and lambs abroad?
It’s a modern truism that major test teams win handsomely at home and lose equally badly when they tour overseas.
Take for example the results of Ashes series in the last seven years. England have won their previous four home Ashes series, but were whitewashed in 2013-14 in Australia. In the current series Down Under too, they have hardly performed any better.
All the other big teams – be it India or South Africa, Australia or Pakistan – struggle in conditions not tailor-made for them.
A big reason for this trend is the lack of time the players spend acclimatising to foreign conditions.
In this decade, two England sides have bucked this trend – Andrew Strauss’s Ashes tourists in 2010-11, and Alastair Cook’s team that achieved the near-impossible by defeating India 2-1 in India in 2012-13. On each of these tours, the visiting side played three tour games each before the Tests. India’s planners thought they were one step ahead, fielding no specialist spinner in any of the three games, but England still managed to beat India at their own game.
Here are other sharp perspectives on the question:
The other key reason is the rise of T20 cricket over the last decade or so. In the beginning, the transition was for established Test and ODI cricketers to switch to the shortest format – something that the likes of Ponting, Jayawardene and dozens of others accomplished. Even someone with a ‘slow’ reputation like Jacques Kallis became a better T20 player with age and experience.
However, we are now in an era where most active players have played T20 first at the local level, since it offers better pay and more exposure than three- or four-day cricket. When they get to the Test level, the players’ games have to be tweaked for the rigour of Test matches, something very few (like Australian maverick David Warner) have been able to accomplish.
It does seem that switching from the shorter format to the longer one is the tougher transition, but it’s not impossible.
That, perhaps, is then the remedy for this tigers-at-home-lambs-away phenomenon – more tours to gain more experience, and more tour games ahead of Test series for better acclimatisation.
Talha Ashraf is a journalist at ThePrint.