Michael Atherton is said to have remarked that cricket history should be divided into two parts — pre and post helmet days.
Indian cricket too ought to be treated strictly on different lines — performance at home and overseas.
As one coach remarked once — his sarcasm emanating from a realistic assessment — the “Bradmans on home pitches sometimes appear no better than tail-enders overseas.”
Harsh it may sound, but it is not far from reality because the Indians are notoriously inconsistent.
The failure of the Indian teams, Delhi Daredevils, Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, at the recent Champions League in South Africa once again brought forth the fact that the players face their sternest tests away from home.
In their defence, one can say the teams suffered from lack of preparation and obviously the menacing conditions they had to contend with.
Bounce and seam movement has always troubled Indian batsmen when playing overseas. There have been some exceptional individuals who have defied the odds and produced some sparkling stuff.
This Champions League was a bowler’s tournament. The pitches were fresher and the moisture was a factor that left the Indians in a daze. True, there were not many practice games and the woes only multiplied as the ball was doing too much.
Batting was a challenge. Even if they coped with the bounce the batsmen found the movement too hot to handle. The inclination to play a lot of shots also caused early demise at the crease.
With bowlers getting extraordinary help from the conditions the batsmen had to be conservative like in English conditions. But habits die hard.
The batsmen from the subcontinent suffer from technical shortcomings, which were exposed in the Champions League.
Not that the batsmen from other teams were all well-equipped to deal with the bounce and swing but most Indians struggled.
Some of the batsmen and bowlers look so pedestrian overseas. The batsmen don’t get many free scoring opportunities and once their shot-making range is restricted they suffer.
Predominant front-foot play does not help them either. Not to forget the poor running between the wickets.
A good coach would tell you that you don’t miss out on the ones and twos if you can’t hit boundaries.
It is hard to pick a batsman who could dominate the bowlers when they enjoyed assistance from the pitch. Drop the ball and run was an art that someone like Rahul Dravid had demonstrated so skilfully. But then he had the technical finesse to tackle the short ball and even gain from it.
Daredevils’ mentor T.A. Sekar said: “The conditions matter a lot. The pitches had spongy bounce and we just didn’t get to practice. The practice pitches were different from the centre pitch.”
Delhi Daredevils finished a creditable semifinalist.
The bowlers had their own problems. The ball does not get old early for them to reverse it. It is different in the sub-continent though.
Daredevils’ all-rounder Ajit Agarkar was candid.
“The length overseas varies from the sub-continent. Without proper practice you can’t hit a decent length in new conditions,” he said.
Tall bowlers stand a better chance to get the stifling length. The nagging length coupled with movement spells double trouble for the batsmen.
“You can do that only from regular exposure to those conditions in matches. It can’t be done at the nets,” Agarkar said.
“For teams from Australia and South Africa, the conditions were not alien at all. Also, teams from India were coming out of off-season and by the time we got used to the bounce and seam it was over,” said Agarkar.
The lacklustre performance of the four Indian teams at the Champions League must have rekindled memories of the past. The Indians were generally considered shoddy when playing away from home.
Things obviously have not changed.