Shane Warne struggled in India, Muttiah Muralitharan averaged over 70 in Australia and Steve Waugh couldn’t buy a run in Sri Lanka despite averaging over 100 against them.
At the same time, there are some who have managed to compete at the same level regardless of the conditions and have finished their careers without any position-specific gaps in their records.
The famous magazine Wisden named the all-time Test XI of the greats everywhere they played.
That all-time Test XI included 5 Australians, and two each from the West Indies, South Africa and India.
01. Sunil Gavaskar
Worst record: 186 runs at 37 in Sri Lanka
Gavaskar began with a dream visit to the Caribbean in 1971 and finished on a high on home soil sixteen years later. In between, he stacked up near-perfect numbers virtually everywhere he set foot. Beyond the debut series in West Indies (774 runs @ 154.8), he hit three more centuries in the Caribbean. Elsewhere, he struck 11 centuries combined (Australia, Pakistan, England, and New Zealand – averaging over 40 in each of those places). And, at home, he hit nearly half his Test runs.
02. Bob Simpson
Worst record: 568 runs at 35 in the West Indies (619 runs at 39 in South Africa before recall)
Simpson was past 40 when he came out of retirement to take over as captain of a third-string Australian side during the Kerry Packer era. He dropped down the order in this phase of his career. As opener, he scored runs everywhere – in England, Pakistan, South Africa and the West Indies. The only marginal blemish was a lack of hundreds in India, but he averaged 48 there with three fifties in six innings, top-scoring in the drawn 1964/65 tour.
03. Greg Chappell
Worst record: 1,020 runs at 41 in England
Lauded by many as one of the greatest Australian batters – and that is saying something – Chappell averaged at least 40 in every country he played in. His worst record was in England, where he still scored over 1,000 runs at 41 (though he led Australia to a defeat in the country in 1977). The only batting caveat comes from his never having played in India, although he did average 75 in Asia for his 447 runs across four games in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
04. Sachin Tendulkar
Worst record: 240 runs at 40 in Zimbabwe
Test cricket’s highest-ever run-scorer seemed to find batting easy wherever he went and spread his 51 hundred across every then-Test-playing nation except Zimbabwe, where he played just four times. He completed the ‘full set’ of averaging 40 in all 10 countries, scoring five or more tons in Australia, Bangladesh, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and India. He also passed fifty in 21 consecutive years from 1993 onwards.
05. Allan Border
Worst record: 152 runs at 38 in South Africa
The ‘definitive Australian captain’ scored a Test hundred in all but one of the eight countries he played in, missing out only in a three-match series in South Africa when, even at 39, he averaged 38. Border also averaged 53 in the West Indies despite facing Malcolm Marshall in each of the 10 Tests he played in the Caribbean. He made six hundred in Asia, where he averaged 55, the highlight being his 150 not out and 153 in Lahore in 1979/80: he still remains the only batter to score two 150s in a Test match.
06. AB de Villiers (wk)
Worst record (minimum four Tests): 338 runs at 42 in Sri Lanka
While de Villiers can be accused of being something of a flat-track bully after 1,372 runs at 98 on the roads of the UAE and the West Indies, he did average over 42 in every nation where he played more than twice, with a particularly strong record in England (545 runs at 54.50). He also excelled with the big gloves without been hampered by the extra workload, averaging 57 in 24 Tests as a wicketkeeper. He did score a very un-de Villiers like seven off 34 balls in his only innings in Zimbabwe, though. Must try harder
07. Alan Davidson
Worst record: 33 wickets at 25 in England
One of the greatest cricketers of all time, Davidson’s record shows he truly was a master of all conditions. A left-arm quick who lacked genuine pace, Davidson’s accuracy and guile earned him an outstanding record in India (30 wickets at 15.76), his best in any country. His average in a single country (25 in England) is less than James Anderson’s career average, and he had essentially a faultless bowling record. Just to show no one is perfect (we are nitpicking here) Davidson did fail to score a fifty from 10 Tests in Asia after scoring five in Australia, England, and South Africa.
08. Dale Steyn
Worst record: 23 wickets at 32 in England
Widely considered to be among the best fast bowlers of his generation, Steyn took five-wicket hauls in eight different countries including five in Asia. He did average over 30 with the ball in England and Sri Lanka, but took crucial five-fors on the way to series wins in both countries. He averaged 21 in India, where he took his career-best figures of 7-51 and took part in some thrilling battles with Tendulkar.
09. Curtly Ambrose
Worst record: 15 wickets at 25 in Pakistan
Playing against the best in the world seemed to get the best out of Ambrose. He took 78 wickets at a shade under 20 against the Australian side that was on the rise in the 1990s, including his famous took 7-1 in a spell at the WACA in 1993/94. He used his 6ft 7in to extract bounce but was equally devastating when there was less bounce on offer, for he averaged 21 in England. Bizarrely, he never played in India, missing out on the 1994/95 tour. It does raise a small question over how he would have got on against Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin in India: he averaged nearly 40 against India at home, his worst against any country.
10. Lance Gibbs
Worst record (minimum four Tests): 59 wickets at 33 in Australia
The remarkable thing about Gibbs’ record was how little it changed depending on the country he played in. Leaving aside New Zealand, where he played just three Tests, he maintained an economy between 1.8 and 2, while striking at between 75 and 97. He thrived on the pitches of India, taking 39 wickets at 23, hated giving away runs so much that he “made a rude protest” when Shakoor Rana called him for overstepping and averaged a respectable 33 in Australia where he was still able to fulfill an effective holding role. His career economy of 1.98 is the lowest among bowlers with 200 Test wickets.
11. Glenn McGrath
Worst record: 19 wickets at 31 in Pakistan
McGrath’s highest average in a country where he played more than five Tests was just 24. He famously tormented batters in England (87 wickets at 19), but he also averaged under 20 in the UAE, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. It is hard to find a genuine fault in his record, but – and we are clutching on to straws here – he did manage just one wicket at 71 in four ODIs in Malaysia. His economy was below three, though, so arguably he was not even a failure there.
(Excerpted from Wisden Magazine.)
Here is an all-time Test XI of greats who performed wherever they played: Sunil Gavaskar, Bob Simpson, Greg Chappell, Sachin Tendulkar, Allan Border, Ab de Villiers (wk), Alan Davidson, Dale Steyn, Curtly Ambrose, Lance Gibbs, Glen McGrath