In the World T20 2014, Suresh Raina showed that he has the ability to counter the short ball © AFP
After being dropped from the One-Day International squad, Suresh Raina had a good outing in the World T20 2014 with a match-winning cameo in the semi-final. With close to a decade of experience, R Vishal feels it’s time for Raina to make a strong impact.
The ICC World T20 2014 was redemption of sorts for Suresh Kumar Raina; the solution against rising ball and the tentative blocking off the toes seemed like an eternity away. The cross-batted flourish and the confident jab off his hips were in full cry.
Right from the warm-up games against England and Sri Lanka leading up to the tournament to treating Wayne Parnell with total disdain in a crucial juncture in the semi-final against South Africa, the flair that once had Greg Chappell mark him a future captain when he was Team India’s coach was back.
The subcontinent has been Raina’s den so far. At home, Raina has pulled off many a jaw-dropping knocks. Closing in on a decade of international cricket behind him, the attacking southpaw is still questioned by many quarters for not cementing his place and predictably, his short ball woes.
Even when his India form tapered, he roared in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Chennai Super Kings’s (CSK) superlative run than the other teams has largely been down to Raina’s incredible consistency and butchering the half-trackers with utmost glee into the stands.
With the countdown ticking to the ICC World Cup 2015 in New Zealand and Australia, Raina has his task cut out and shed the infamous tag of being labeled a flat-track bully. For a player approaching 200 One-Day Internations (ODI), Raina’s modest record in New Zealand and Australia does evoke a cause for worry for India’s unresolved middle-order issues.
The country is still coming to terms with the disgraceful aftermath of Yuvraj Singh’s painstaking knock in the final, the battle line-up remains unsettled from Virat Kohli at No3 and Mahendra Singh Dhoni at No7. With a barrage of short-pitched stuff aimed at his ribcage expected in next year’s World Cup, The Uttar Pradesh batsmen’s scores doesn’t pass muster. In Australia, after eight games, Raina averages a paltry 26 with not a single half-century to his name. In New Zealand, however he has fared better after eight games with a healthy average of 41.80.
It should be noted that most of his runs in New Zealand came from tearing into the uninspiring home attack in 2009 and struggled to construct an innings of note against a rejuvenated Kiwi bowling attack. Of late, Raina himself has addressed his nagging troubles with the rising delivery and even credited former Indian Sourav Ganguly (who had similar worries during his playing days) for an improved technique.
Even during India’s historic World Cup win in 2011, the team succumbed to two consecutive middle-order collapses against England and South Africa after Sachin Tendulkar’s superlative efforts and can ill-afford to repeat that in far more unforgiving conditions.
With tours of England and Australia coming up, testing times await Raina. At this juncture, India and the enigmatic left-hander are co-dependent and this is a chance where the batsman should take on the role of a senior player in the team.
Ajinkya Rahane has already shown better adaptability, temperament and the technique in the middle order and the likes of Dinesh Karthik, and Cheteshwar Pujara are breathing down his neck. Time has come for Raina to shrug off the unwanted ‘Dhoni’s man’ tag and come into his own or as he has found out with his Test career, India has a conveyer belt of replacements.
(R Vishal is a journalist and alumni of the Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)