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India won their first away Test in Dunedin in 1968. They went on to win two more in the same series -registering their first ever series win outside India and their only away series victory in the 1960s.
Then, they famously won two series -one each in West Indies and England in the early 1970s, the only away series wins that decade.
The 1986 series win over England was the solitary overseas win in the 1980s.
The 2000s has been the best decade for India with respect to overseas success with seven series wins (including wins in Pakistan, West Indies, England and New Zealand).
Midway into the 2010s, and India have two away series wins -one each against Bangladesh and West Indies -the two weakest teams in world cricket today, arguably, so a lot of work to do here.

But then there were the 1990s -The ‘Dark Ages’ for Indian Test cricket outside India -a period in which they were tagged ‘home bullies’.
India had the worst win-loss ratio (even lower than Zimbabwe) for away Tests in the 1990s. 
In fact, their only Test win (and subsequently series win) outside home in the decade came against Sri Lanka in 1993.
Sri Lanka were no pushovers at home. In fact, India had lost in their only previous series there (in 1985) and recently too, both New Zealand and England had been beaten by them.

The first Test was rained-off after Sri Lanka had batted just 12 overs.
In the second Test at Colombo (SSC), commencing July 27, 1993, India batting first, made 366, thanks mainly to Sidhu’s 82 and Vinod Kambli’s six-hour 125. Sri Lanka were dismissed for 254, courtesy Kumble’s 5-87 and 3-45 from Prabhakar. With centuries from Sidhu and Tendulkar and a near-hundred from Prabhakar, India cruised to 359 for 4, before setting Sri Lanka 472 to win. Prabhakar and Kumble took 3 wickets each as India won by a massive 235 runs, their first win in Sri Lanka.

The next Test was drawn and this was and is, till date, India’s only Test-series win in Sri Lanka (three lost and two drawn in six Test series). And it was India’s only away Test win in the decade and their solitary away series win.

Even though Kambli was the highest scorer in that deciding match, Prabhakar, Kumble and Sidhu were higher impact than him.

This had been Kambli-s third consecutive Test hundred, and he would make one more in the next Test -making him the highest impact batsman in the series. It had been an incredible start to his 8-month old career; in 1993, in fact, Kambli was the highest impact batsman in the world, if series-defining performances were not considered.

But unfortunately, this series marked the end of what had been a brilliant start to the career of one of India’s most talented batsmen.

His impact fell from 3.26 to 1.02.

In 5 Tests he had played so far, to the 10 he played after (till November 1995), Kambli’s Batting Impact fell by a dramatic 69%.

The fall is even more spectacular if we measure it from after the series.
Kambli’s Batting Impact post this series was just 0.95, which means he did not justify his place as a batsman in the side (an impact of below 1 qualifies as a failure in this system).

Kambli played just 17 Test matches for India (15 in which he got a chance to bat) and played his last in whites before the age of 24.

For someone who was considered a childhood prodigy, had a Test average of above 54 and was the fastest Indian (and fifth-fastest overall) to reach 1000 Test runs, there is no doubt that he underachieved.

Was it a failure of the management and captain of that time for not being able to rein in on his reported indiscipline and behavioural problems? Could his true potential have been drawn out of him? Should he have been given a longer rope?

Vinod Kambli remains one of Indian cricket’s most tragic figures.

 

 

Nikhil Narain/ Jaideep Varma
Art- Gokul Chakravarthy

 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.