For three years after Mohammed Azharuddin became the captain in January 1990, India mostly played Test cricket abroad. The only exception was a single Test against Sri Lanka in Chandigarh in December 1990, which India won. In 1990, India lost to New Zealand and England, defeated 4-0 by Australia in 1991-92, and lost to South Africa 0-1 in 1992-93. Due to these poor performances, Azhar was put on ‘probation’ during England’s tour of India in January 1993.
During this crucial series, Azhar and his teammate Venkatapathi Raju were both under pressure. Raju, a left-arm spinner, had to perform well to secure his place in the team. The series was significant for him, especially since he had been replaced by Anil Kumble during the South Africa tour.
Raju recalls, “It was a big series for me. After that 6-for against Sri Lanka, we only played outside, and obviously, there wasn’t a lot of help for the spinners. I needed to do well to stay in the mix.“
In that series, both Kumble and Raju performed exceptionally well, supported by other bowlers like Rajesh Chauhan, Kapil Dev, and Manoj Prabhakar. Their efforts, along with contributions from batsmen, led India to a 3-0 victory against England, marking India’s first clean sweep against them.
Raju emphasizes the significance of the series, saying, “That series started the trend of India being very difficult to beat at home. Earlier, there were lots of drawn Tests. But this team started the trend of winning at home.“
He dismisses the notion that the pitches were heavily tilted in India’s favor, pointing out that all three Tests went to the fifth day. Raju credits the team’s success to their good combination, support from all-rounders, and excellent close-in fielding.
Raju also addresses the speculation that he received special treatment because the captain, Azhar, was from Hyderabad. He acknowledges the comfort of having the captain from the same state but emphasizes that performance is crucial, saying, “He can’t bowl and take wickets for me, can he?“
In conclusion, Raju takes pride in being part of the 3-0 sweep against England, considering it a seminal moment in Indian cricket.