By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Subramanian Badrinath has quietly filled in the void created by the unexpected exit of VVS Laxman as another spot in the Indian team line-up is up for grabs. Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane – men who were a part of the original squad – and Badrinath are the candidates to take up Laxman’s spot in the eleven, while Cheteshwar Pujara is almost a certainty to fill the vacancy created by Rahul Dravid.
Raina’s selection into the Test squad was a huge surprise, given his infamous struggle against the short-pitched delivery. The Test series in England last year brutally exposed his shortcomings. In one-day cricket, the same Raina fearlessly takes his chances against the short stuff, but his defence is woefully inadequate in the longest format. Without a solid defence against the short delivery, Raina would find it difficult to adjust to the rigours of Test cricket. It isn’t clear whether he has rectified the flaw. According to reports, he was to go to Australia to play a few club matches for practice on lively wickets after the 2012 Indian Premier League (IPL).
While announcing his retirement, Laxman stated that he wanted to give the youngsters a chance at home before India embarks on their next foreign tour. What if Raina does exceptionally well in all the home series and his problems return to haunt him once India travel to South Africa and New Zealand in the coming years? Considering the larger picture, playing Raina is a huge gamble – one whose real merits would only be known a year or two down the line.
Badrinath has been a stalwart at the domestic level and has been consistent for a number of seasons. It was his bad luck that a major chunk of his career coincided with the era of India’s formidable batting riches. He has played a few limited-overs games though – where he has shown promise in a game or two and then found himself out of the side. On the other hand, he has two Test caps to his name – both against South Africa in 2010. His fifty in his debut innings was a gritty one, but Dale Steyn and Co. got the better of him in the next few essays.
The Tamil Nadu batsman is certainly far more dependable compared to a Raina. His technique looks more solid and assured. Given his fantastic run at the domestic level for a number of years, he deserves a longer run in the side to prove his mettle. His age is something that works against him as he is on the wrong side of thirty. However, one mustn’t forget that Australia introduced Michael Hussey into international cricket at a similar age – and he has turned out to be a major asset to them in all formats. If Badrinath is given a go and he does well, he might be able to carve out a decent international career in the coming years.
Rahane is a part of the squad, but seems to be in as a back-up opener. Considering this fact, it seems very unlikely that he would take up Laxman’s spot as he is a top order batsman – unless there is an overhaul in the batting order. With Pujara and Virat Kohli ahead in the pecking order, Rahane would have to warm the benches and bide his time for chances.
As discussed in a previous article, the Indian team management has to pick either Pujara or Kohli for the No 3 spot. The void left by Laxman may also prompt another move, where Kohli may get a promotion to No 5 while Pujara would walk at No 3. The number six spot would then be between Raina and Badrinath.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have to put on his thinking cap before choosing his line-up for the first Test at Hyderabad. A holistic view needs to be taken as these home series would be crucial for India’s team-building ahead of the foreign tours. New Zealand may not be the most formidable opponent to start with, but a good performance is needed to blood in confidence after the horrendous last season.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44 )