Suresh Raina celebrates his half-century during ICC World Cup 2015    Getty Images
Suresh Raina celebrates his half-century during ICC World Cup 2015 Getty Images

“Whether I was rested or dropped [for the Zimbabwe trip], I will strive to cement my place in the Indian team,” these words from Suresh Raina, was enough to land him back in the Indian One-Day International (ODI) squad. India are already marching with confidence in the five-match ODI series with lead of 1-0 against visitors New Zealand, after whitewashing them by 3-0 in the Test series. When the squad was announced for the ODIs, regular batsmen KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan were not picked due to injuries. So this time around, the doors were open for the experienced bunch to step in. It was either Raina or Yuvraj Singh, maybe. But one could not have been happier to see their long lost batsman back in the blue attire at home after one whole year. They say there is right time for things to configure, maybe this was the moment India s lost limited-overs specialists batsman Raina was waiting for. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs New Zealand, 2nd ODI at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi

Carrying the penchant for those aggressive shots, Raina found his place amongst a mixed squad comprising of the likes of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, while on the other end have the inexperienced unit of Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Jayant Yadav and Akshar Patel. So where does Raina fit amongst this squad? India s playing XI on Sunday consisted of players where one new comer had all the skills to be the second finisher for the side while the other was the new found all-rounder, who was excellent with the ball. Sounds pretty similar to the expertise that Raina possesses, right?

It was unfortunate that Raina missed out on the first ODI due to his illness, but the stage is once again set for the experienced batsman for his comeback and make this opportunity count.

What makes Suresh Raina a complete package in ODIs?

While very few are aware, Raina is the first Indian batsman to have a century in all formats in international cricket. He can potentially be a match-winner at any position in the squad. However, his ODI performance has stuttered in the recent past. The ODI series against South Africa was nightmare for Raina, barring that one innings which proved to be a grace point. It read as:

3,0,0,53,12

Raina will not want to look back at this scorecard once again, ever in his life. What remains a stand out in Raina s career is his consistency in ODIs despite the various positions he has played. He might not have had the desired start in the ODIs, but by 2008 he became a regular to the side. He got his first century against Hong Kong in 2008 and the next was against Bangladesh in the same year. In the year 2014, Raina made a resounding comeback with his century at Cardiff and continued the momentum in ICC World Cup 2015 as he amassed 284 at an average of 56.80. However, the series against South Africa almost brought curtains.

His innings against New Zealand in 2009 is not unknown. Those monstrous sixes proved enough of the batting prowess of Raina and the threat he can pose to the Kiwis now.

We all know Dhoni is tagged as the finisher for the side. But with questions on his retirement looming and the slight struggle Dhoni is facing down the order, Raina has one more chance to cement his spot and takeover as the finisher of the team from Dhoni. Raina s last ODI read a strike rate of 92.30, which is decent enough and has all the expertise to make it better with the right temperament. He has played in various positions, be it No. 5 or No. 6 or even No. 3 for that matter and all with ease.

With no Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, Raina can be a handy bowler as well and certainly an excellent back-up plan for India. Of course, India do have Amit Mishra, who took three wickets in the first ODI and Akshar in the side, but Raina has as slight edge with experience on his side. The recent domestic experience matters. He was given the ball right since his debut but his best performance came against West Indies at home with figures of 3 for 34, called in as the fifth bowler, in 2013. His economy rate was respectable as it read 5.09 then. In his last match against South Africa as well, he earned a wicket adding some smile to the disappointing series he had.

With Kohli doing the dive and Rahane grabbing the catch at the slips in the current series, one surely misses that electrifying fielder in the circle, taking away all the applause. Remember the 2006 match against Australia and Raina s acrobatic skills to dismiss Simon Kattich for a golden duck? Moving forward to 2012 Asia Cup, Raina once again dived to grab the wicket of Younis Khan after his half-century and Praveen Kumar was the bowler then. This is why Raina stands tall as one of the best fielders, hands down.

The Dhoni-Raina combination is not an Untold Story . There have been tongue-in-cheek remarks about Raina and Dhoni as well. When the team is under pressure, they are the best super saviour combo that India would need. Their partnership of 196 runs, which is the highest stand for any wicket for India in a successful chase in a World Cup match, is etched in many minds. It is not just in ODI cricket but also since the Chennai Super King (CSK) days that adds further excitement that has strengthened their bond. Raina and Dhoni pair will surely grab the eyeballs once again when they join hands in this ODI series.

Short ball- the only hindrance for Suresh Raina:

As Raina s career progressed, his weakness with short ball was pretty much evident. The opposition found the only drawback in this batsman and targeted Raina with bouncers on most occasions. That has been the only reason for his exclusion in the longest format. In the South Africa series, the Mumbai match saw Kagiso Rabada bundle Raina out with a bouncer displacing his leg-stump from behind his legs. That s when he was nowhere mentioned in the ODI squad for the Australia tour. This time around Raina has just one way to get over the hindrance, fending them off straight to the boundaries and playing those clever shots, that he usually does.

Baby-face Raina is approaching his 30s and if Misbah-ul-Haq at the age of 42 can very much continue to win Test matches for Pakistan and make a stunning comeback with his century, then Raina can very well earn that vacant spot. Of course there are the youngsters who are slyly eyeing that spot as well; Raina has always found his way back in the squad when given an opportunity.

There were various rumours on Raina s absence from the recent Zimbabwe series on being dropped, that was clarified by himself to Mid-Day saying, I was only rested when the youngsters were given exposure during the Zimbabwe ODI series.”

From former coach Greg Chappell calling him the next Brian Lara to captain Dhoni backing the lad from Uttar Pradesh, it is time Raina lives up to all those expectations.

 

#training#blessed

A photo posted by Suresh Raina (@sureshraina3) on

 

It is time Raina moves on from being called a T20 specialist and adds another feather to his cap. Picture speaks thousand words and the picture above speaks out Raina’s eagerness to get back in the Indian team.

(Shruti Hariharan is Content Writer with CricketCountry. You can follow her on Twitter at @Shruti_2890)