Team India no longer infallible at home
Though it retained its home advantage in recent years, the Indian cricket team, says Bikash Mohapatra, is no longer the indomitable force it used to be.
'What is important is you need to respect the opposition,' said MS Dhoni, ahead of the home series against England.
The Indian captain's word of caution came at a time when the hosts were expected to win comfortably, thereby exacting revenge on the 4-0 humiliation suffered in the corresponding fixture in England last year.
Unfortunately for Dhoni, his teammates did not heed to the advice, and what happened thereafter we all are aware of. In fact, they were guilty of underestimating the opposition and paid a heavy price for the same.
A lot of that confidence, rather over-confidence, came from England's perceived vulnerability against the turning ball and their not-so-impressive record in the sub-continent -- the visitors having not won a series since David Gower took them to a 2-1 win in 198-85.
India's recent performance at home against the top three nations is sketchy
Besides, Team India, traditionally considered as poor travellers, and susceptible against the moving ball, was always favourites to win on their own turf, where they had an enviable home record.
However, the reality is a bit different, especially if one takes into account recent history.
Team India has no doubt managed to retain its home advantage in recent years but it is no longer the indomitable force it used to be.
In fact, since the turn of the century the team has lost more matches at home (11) than at any other period in its cricketing history.
Besides, there have been many close calls.
If one takes into consideration Team India's recent performance at home against the top three nations, it can at best be described as sketchy.
Negative cricket from Dhoni and Co.
While the third and final Test against Australia in the 2001 series (in Chennai) went down to the wire, so did the opening Test (in Mohali) against the same opponents in the 2010 series, the home team fortunate to scrape through on both the occasions.
Likewise, England, having won a Test at the Wankhede in 2006, did considerably well in the second Test of the 2008 series (in Mohali). It was some negative cricket from Dhoni and Co. that helped draw the match and thereby pocket the series.
And then, there is South Africa, India's perennial nemesis on home turf. Besides, winning the Test series in 2000, the Proteas took the lead in both 2008 and 2010, forcing the home team to take desperate measures.
In fact, the team has not been able to beat South Africa (in a series) on Indian soil in the last eight years (since 2004). Add to it the fact that they have never won a series in South Africa and it brings out a woeful overall record to the fore.
'We have not been consistent at home in recent times'
Former captain Rahul Dravid was categorical in his assessment of Team India's recent performance on their own turf.
'We have not been consistent at home in recent times,' he said, adding, 'We struggled to beat Australia a couple of years back (in Mohali).
'And a few matches against South Africa have been very close."
'Besides, the foreign players are playing regularly in India, in the Indian Premier League and other 'A' tours, and the conditions as such are no more a mystery."
With Alastair Cook's England side beating MS Dhoni's team comprehensively this time, the latter's record at home suffered another dent.
The result reiterated the fact that Team India is no longer infallible at home and visiting teams are slowly, but surely, becoming aware of the same, and adjusting their games accordingly.
If a required reassessment does not happen in quick time, it won't be long before our players start getting uncomfortable in their own bastion, as is the case when they travel abroad.