After Australia collapsed to 177 all-out in the first match of the 2023 Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Nagpur, Nick Anand looks back at some of the great Australian players who never quite conquered India.

The fact that there are so many legendary names on this list, names that would ordinarily appear on an all-time great Australian players list, shows how difficult it is to succeed in India – particularly in the era of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy where India boasted had some of the best Test players to ever emerge from the country.

Succeeding across multiple series in India is a record reserved for the very best, and even then can be somewhat of a rarity.

David Warner

It may seem unfair to include David Warner on this list since he still has a chance to turn around his fortunes in India should he find success in the coming weeks. However, given his cheap dismissal on day one of the first Test and his historically poor record in the country, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that the opening batter will continue to struggle.

Warner has played nine Test matches in India scoring 389 runs at an average of 22.88. Compared to his overall career figures (8,133 runs at 45.94) this is a huge drop. Having been one of the dominant forces in Test match opening batting over the past ten years, it is fair to say that Warner has not had the same effect in India as elsewhere.

Ricky Ponting

An all-time great of top-order batting and Australia’s highest Test match run-scorer, Ricky Ponting never truly hit the same consistent heights in India as he achieved throughout the rest of his career. He played 14 Test matches in the country, scoring 662 runs in total at an average of 26.48. Those figures pale in comparison to his career figures of 13,378 runs at an average of 51.85 in Test cricket.

He did score a notable century in Bengaluru in 2008. Having previously only passed fifty once in 14 innings in India, Ponting kept Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble at bay to score his 34th hundred. Despite ten further attempts, that was the only time Ponting passed three figures on Indian soil.

Justin Langer

Again, Langer’s is a name that might come as a surprise on this list given his reputation as one of Australia’s finest openers. Known as a grafter who never gave in, in the seven Test matches he played there Langer only scored 389 runs at an average of 29.92. Langer played in two Border-Gavaskar trophies in India but never passed three figures. His highest score came in Chennai in 2004 where he hit 71 before falling to Harbhajan. In his final innings in the country later in that same series, Langer fell to Zaheer Khan for a second-ball duck, the ninth of 11 in his Test match career.

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Shane Warne

Despite the tradition of spin-friendly conditions, even the greatest leg-spinner of all time struggled in India. Warne only took 34 wickets across his nine Test matches, and his average (43.11) was the worst in India compared to anywhere else in the world that he bowled. Even with his obvious struggles, Warne put in a sterling performance in Chennai in 2004. He took seven wickets and saved Australia from defeat in the second Test, enabling them to go on and win the series. Warne’s six-for was doubly special in Chennai given that it saw him go past Muttiah Muralitharan as Test cricket’s leading wicket-taker of all time – Murali would subsequently retake the spot 11 months later.

Mitchell Starc

Starc is another player who could potentially turn things around for himself in the current edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. However, given his absence from the first Test due to injury, he has a huge task to correct his form in India. The left-arm quick has played just four Tests in India ad taken only seven wickets. His average of 50.14 makes for even grimmer reading.

To put into perspective just how different Starc’s performances are in India from elsewhere, his career average is 27.26 and only in India and the UAE does his average climb above 35. In Sri Lanka, he averages 17.48 and 34.12 in Pakistan. Of all Australian seam bowlers who have played in India since 2010, only Moises Henriques has a worse strike rate than Starc, with the same being true in the bowling average charts.

Brett Lee

A true aggressor with the ball in hand, even Brett Lee’s skills in getting the ball swinging and his sheer pace were not enough for him to master Indian conditions. The right-arm tearaway only played four Tests in India, taking just eight wickets at an average of 61.62. In a particularly bruising innings in Delhi in 2008, Lee returned figures of 1-119 as Gautam Gambhir and VVS Laxman both scored double-centuries.

Lee struggled in Asia in general, averaging 60.86. But in the one Test series he played in India, he was faced with an awesome batting lineup which included Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly as well as Gambhir and Laxman.