Suresh Raina faces uphill battle to usurp Virat Kohli as India’s No 2
Suresh Raina (left) lost his vice-captaincy of the Indian team to Virat Kohli © Getty Images
With the battle for MS Dhoni’s successor heating up, R Vishal analyses Suresh Raina’s captaincy going into the three-match One-Day International (ODI) series against Bangladesh.
It’s a One-Day International (ODI) in July 2013 at Port-of-Spain against West Indies. India are coasting to an easy win having posted a 300-plus score thanks to Virat Kohli’s hundred. Despite having run through the hosts’ top-order, tailenders Kemar Roach and Sunil Narine offer stubborn resistance.
The young side was getting restless. Suresh Raina drops his second regulation chance during the innings and the bowler Ravindra Jadeja, who is peeved reportedly, yells out, “You lost your place as captain, have you lost your interest in fielding as well?” The two players get into an ugly confrontation a little later. What might have possibly triggered the chirpy, banter-loving Raina was a reminder that he had fallen down the pecking order.
Straight after India’s ICC World Cup 2011 win, it was Raina who was leading the team in the same West Indian shores with a firm grasp of the ‘Next big thing’ crown.
Kohli’s exponential rise as the poster boy of Indian cricket’s next-gen had left his peers far behind. Having shrugged off the episode and poor form, the southpaw has yet again come back to his destructive best. Having walloped some of the world’s best in the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 and Kohli’s absence has seen Raina take over the reins in the upcoming tour of Bangladesh.
It’s neither MS Dhoni’s Zen-like composure nor Kohli’s abrasive, in-your-face template. It’s just a reflection of the Uttar Pradesh batsmen — setting an example with the bat and full of energy on the field.
It’s not certain if Dhoni’s influence rubbed off on him but he is a pretty calm customer and from the school of captains who lead from the front with the bat. On the back of yet another stellar IPL 2014 performance, the Uttar Pradesh southpaw commands instant respect from team-mates and peers alike.
If Raina’s brief stints as captain are anything to go by, leadership is not a role he has entirely felt comfortable with. Throughout his nine-year international career, he has had to live with the ‘Next Big Thing’ tag. Of the nine ODIs that Raina has captained so far, his record has been less than impressive. The win-loss record reads five defeats with a mere four wins. A couple of those defeats came against Zimbabwe. Kohli on the other hand, took India to a dominant 5-0 win against Zimbabwe in 2013.
As mentioned earlier, Raina has an unimpressive record as captain. Throughout his career, he has had imposing figures to lead the way. If it was Rahul Dravid in his early years as a player, Dhoni backing him to the hilt saw his stock rise for country and franchise cricket. Making that step from having been a go-to man to spearheading a young and hungry team needs a good mix of natural leadership qualities coupled with authority on the side. This is where Dhoni enjoyed immense success in his early years as India captain and Kohli has been groomed for at Under-19 level and for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
While captaincy would certainly come as a shot in the arm for Raina in the upcoming Bangladesh tour, there is no hiding from the fact this is nearly a test run merely a reward for his good work since the ICC World T20 2014. Anything less than a 3-0 victory against a full-strength Bangladesh team and it might end up being curtains for Suresh Raina — the Indian skipper.
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(R Vishal is a journalist and alumnus of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)