A common thing one hears about today’s Test cricket, especially from Indian fans is that today’s batting line ups are not a patch on the line ups in earlier eras.
Its just that India are harder to score against than they used to be. That’s why, today’s English and Australian bats do not appear as monsters to Indian cricket watchers. The chart below provides the batting averages for batting positions 1-6 by opponent in different eras.
There are more attacks which are deeper today, and are harder to score against than there used to be. In the period 1985-94, for example, West Indies and Pakistan had phenomenal attacks, as did South Africa after they rejoined international cricket. But the rest of the attacks were not as good. In the next 10 year period, Australia and South Africa had the phenomenal attacks.
In most eras, there were a couple of difficult attacks (against which the top six averaged only in the early 30s), and two to three average ones (against which the top orders averaged in the mid-30s). The rest were weak - the average top six batsman averaged 40 against them. From 1935 to 2015, India was that weak attack.
As the chart above shows, in the current era that are 3 strong attacks and 3 other average ones, and only one which is might be considered weak.
What sets the current Indian attack apart is that they’re hard to score against whether the conditions favor seam or spin. The chart below gives the same figures as above, but for Tests played outside Asia (excluding Zimbabwe).
For example, if you consider the English trio of Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain - mainstays in the English line up of the 1990s, they averaged 32 against Australia and 32 against West Indies, but 50 against India and New Zealand. Imagine what they looked like to Indian or NZ eyes, and what they looked like to Australian or West Indian eyes.
There are fewer weak attacks today, so its harder for Test bats to average 40 or more. But IND are not one of those weak attacks as they have traditionally been.
What Indian fans have seen for most of their lives is that Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Dawid Malan, Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley and Haseeb Hameed would all fill their boots against India, and struggle against Australia or South Africa.
But the Test cricket has changed. India are the hardest team in the world to score Test runs against now. It is a strange new world, to be sure. But its here.