Mumbai — India’s excellent record at home is underappreciated, but it is an important stepping stone to winning matches abroad, batsman Rohit Sharma said.

Under talismanic captain Virat Kohli, India won nine consecutive Test series dating back to 2015 before the 2-1 series loss in SA in January halted their juggernaut. The stellar run firmly cemented India’s place on top of the world Test rankings but the bone of contention has been that out of the nine, six came at home while away victories were in Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

"It’s just a general perception of people that we have to win away games. As long as you are playing the game, you have to win everywhere," Sharma said. "It doesn’t matter where you win. People obviously find it more interesting to write something different when it comes to overseas victories. Yes, overseas victories are important, but you have to win at home first, then you win overseas."

With trips to England and Australia pencilled in for later in the year, critics believe 2018 will be the real test for Kohli’s men in the longest format.

"There are challenging tours coming up, which we have to do well in," said Sharma, who averages just under 40 in 25 Tests.

"If you look at the South African tour, we almost won the first Test match and won the third. We are competing really hard as a team even outside India. "Things will fall in place.

"There are certain things we need to improve as a group. I am sure we can take the learning from what happened in SA with us when we go to England."

The right-handed batsman also leads India in limited-overs matches in the absence of Kohli and recently skippered them to victory in March’s Twenty20 tri-series in Sri Lanka, also featuring Bangladesh.