India overseas have lost seven of their last eight ODIs and nine of their last 10 Tests. Swaddled in those defeats was a cliffhanger of a draw at Johannesburg, where MS Dhoni’s men dominated only to be deprived by Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers on the final afternoon, and an equally topsy-turvy tied ODI at Auckland. Now that the latest wipe-out in New Zealand has dislodged India from the No.1 spot, a placement that anyway drew immeasurably from a packed domestic calendar, the general tone going into the two-Test series against the Kiwis is that this Indian team overseas is rather more competitive in the longest format than it is in ODIs.
The viewpoint has little statistical backing. Over the past three years, since the 2011 World Cup win, India have failed to make an impact abroad. That of late they have been less of a pushover in Tests (the sample size being painfully small, two matches in South Africa) may have some element of truth to it, purely for reasons of team selection. Cheteshwar Pujara at No.3 in the Test line-up is like a shot of steroid into an inflamed muscle, so prettily has he filled Rahul Dravid’s big shoes. Of the ten times Pujara has crossed fifty, in 17 Tests, six times has he gone all the way to a century. A renowned aggregator of domestic triple–tons, Pujara also gets his runs at a fair rate, and averages almost 55 in List A cricket.