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India beat England in a home-series in 1993. It was their first series-sweep (series involving three Tests or more) in Test cricket. The series revolutionized Indian Test cricket history. It heralded a new era in which India was almost unbeatable at home.
Though they continued to be poor travelers till the turn of the millennium, they did not lose a single Test series at home in that entire decade – the only country to do so.

Anil Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan had been the chief architects of the 1993 series win.

Kumble and Chauhan gave series-defining ( SD ) performances while Raju was the third-highest impact bowler of the series, right behind them.

In that series, it was 3.88, 4.17 and 1.57.

Kumble and Chauhan, both, had a promising start to their Test careers. Kumble had failed in only one of his nine Tests since debut and was already being billed as India’s next great spinner.

Chauhan, of course, gave an SD in this, his debut series – the second Indian bowler to have achieved that feat after Narendra Hirwani.

Raju had had mixed fortunes. He had spun India to victory in just his third Test – against Sri Lanka in Chandigarh in November, 1990 (where he picked up 8 wickets in the match including a magical 6-12 in 17.5 overs in the first innings), but was not consistent and had failed ( Bowling Impact of less than 1) in six of his 13 Tests since debut.
His Bowling Impact was 62% lower than Chauhan’s and 60% lower than Kumble’s.

The story changed in the next five years.

It became 2.95, 1.44 and 2.35.

India played 10 Test series from February, 1993 to February, 1998.

While Kumble spearheaded the Indian attack and was India’s highest impact bowler in this period, his Bowling Impact , after a phenomenal start, dropped by 24%.

Chauhan could not build on his debut performance and did not register any more SDs in the 14 Tests he played in this period. He also had a high failure rate of 57% which saw a sharp fall in his Bowling Impact .

Raju’s career followed an upward curve and his Bowling Impact saw a sensational rise of 50%. In fact, Raju’s failure rate of 10% (min. 10 Tests) in this period was by far the best in the world (next best was Heath Streak with 15%).

And more surprisingly, if we do not account for series-defining performances , then Raju emerged as the highest impact Indian bowler in this time-frame. Interestingly, apart from his phenomenal consistency , he outshone Kumble in the ability to pick top/middle order opposition wickets.

Raju reached the peak of his bowling prowess during the home-series against West Indies in 1994 where he was the leading wicket-taker (20 wickets in three Tests) and the highest impact Indian bowler, comfortably overshadowing Kumble.

But bizarrely he played just 10 of the 32 Tests India played in this period and was not a regular in the side. He shared the role of the second, and sometimes third, spinner with Chauhan, Hirwani, Sunil Joshi, Nilesh Kulkarni and Ashish Kapoor.

The home-series against Australia that followed in March 1998 sealed the fate of two of the spin trio. The second Test in Kolkata was Chauhan’s last for India.
Raju got an SD for his performance in the series-opener in Chennai (for changing the momentum) but just managed to pick a solitary wicket in the final two Tests. He played just one more Test – against Australia in 2001.

Kumble not only registered an SD but also picked 23 wickets in the series and was the highest impact bowler, by some margin. He would go on to become India’s highest impact Test bowler, by a distance.

It is interesting to note that Kumble, Raju and Chauhan played together in just 14 Tests but more significantly Indian won 10 and drew 4 of these.

One only wonders what Indian cricket could have achieved if they were given a longer rope together.

 

 

Nikhil Narain

 NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.