“It would be a bit early to say if ‘home advantage’ exists in shorter formats or not? But more one-sided series like these, where home sides are struggling to get going, will certainly demand answers”.
Cricket is a game of uncertainties, a game of surprises and unpredictability. More the uncertainty, more the excitement. In this game, ‘home advantage’ plays a massive role. Over the years, teams have benefited massively in matches played in their backyard, especially in Test cricket.
In fact, a team’s fortune depends largely on the conditions while playing against the red ball. They are used to home conditions, this is where they’ve learnt the art of the game and know it inside out. India lost the Test series 2-1 in South Africa but wreaked havoc against the top sides back home. Saying that they dominated the home Test season would be an understatement, such had been the impact. Of course, home advantage played a key role behind their unbeatable streak.
While the ‘home advantage’ has become pivotal in Test cricket, it has surprisingly become contradictory in shorter formats in the recent times. It’s not that this concept has evolved out of the blue, but the fact that home sides are failing to even put up a fight is mind-boggling. Shorter formats have been competitive on alien lands and visiting sides have also done well on an overseas tour. It’s true that home advantage had a little role to play in ODIs and T20Is, but the two recently concluded ODI series that had one-sided results, have completely outplayed the home advantage.
South Africa lived up to the expectations in the three-match Test series against India, winning it by 2-1. They were right on the money but India were competitive too. The same South African side has looked bereft of oomph in shorter formats. They were clueless in the six-match ODI series, losing it 5-1. And one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that they were fortunate to have won the only game of the series. Despite the series being played in their backyard, South Africa looked vulnerable and India did well in exploiting their weakness brutally.
One may say that South Africa were unfortunate to have lost key players due to injury, but that would have hardly made any difference. After a disheartening campaign in the ODIs, South Africa had their hopes pinned to the T20I series, but a dismal start has only cut it short. India outplayed the host in the series opener and will be the team to beat in the next two games.
Talking about Australia, they did well to win the Ashes Down Under. Despite some flaws in the line-up, their players exploited the conditions to the fullest to regain the Ashes. They won the five-match series 4-0, but failed to replicate similar magic in the 50-over format. They lost the five-match series 4-1 against a rejuvenated English side. England, on the other hand, looked unstoppable in the ODI series and did well to seal a series victory.
Two top ODI sides in world cricket have floundered in their backyard. Has the home advantage been completely lost in the shorter formats? Both the teams, despite having a good idea of the wickets, conditions, and crowd support have failed to seal the series, which is surprising. One of the main reasons behind the sides struggling in Tests but able to dominate ODIs may be the homogeneity in surfaces.
Pitches in shorter-formats are mostly the same across the globe – batting friendly. While Test cricket has many different things to test in a visiting side, the scenario is not the same in white ball cricket. It is often said, cricket gets more competitive when the conditions are bowling friendly. The balance is heavily tilted in favour of the batsmen in shorter formats, but the fact that South Africa were not even competitive and Australia’s failure to reap fruitful results is astounding.
One just can’t deny the fact that India and England are two best sides in world cricket and would have won the series anyway. But the fact that they won the series by a huge margin raises a lot of questions. It would be a bit early to say if ‘home advantage’ exists in shorter formats or not? But more one-sided series like these, where home sides are struggling to get going, will certainly demand answers.