A perfect middle-order batsman in the limited-overs formats, a more than handy bowler and an outstanding fielder. This is Suresh Raina for you. A skipper always looks for such cricketers, who fall in this category of smart cricketers. The Uttar Pradesh-player has proved his credentials many a times while representing the country, be it at U-19 level or while playing in the senior team.
Without a doubt, there has been a huge dip in Raina’s performance with the bat, for quite some time now. And a result of that, his on-field confidence has also gone for a toss. In his last 24 international matches, Raina has only managed to score one half-century, that too against minnows Zimbabwe. In fact, India’s dream run in 2013, where they went on to win six ODI tournaments on the trot out of seven, undoubtedly helped the southpaw to remain in the playing XI, even after his below par performances.
Now, as India have started performing badly in the ODIs, he was the first batsman to be at the receiving end. While selecting the team for the upcoming Asia Cup and World Twenty20, Indian selectors have shown the doors to the 27-year-old in the fifty-over event. It wasn’t a harsh decision from selectors, rather a correct one, as it will give Raina some time to work on his flaws and make a comeback in the team, before the ICC World Cup - scheduled to take place next year in Trans-Tasman nations.
The major issue with Raina, in his otherwise sparkling batting, is his vulnerability against the short ball. He struggled a lot against Mitchell Johnson when Australia locked horns with India last year on Indian tracks. An opposition skipper can easily chalk out his dismissal, by instructing seamers to bowl bouncers at him, especially on the bouncy and swift tracks of Australia and New Zealand.
While playing in New Zealand, Raina failed to justify his place in the team and was dropped from the last two matches of the five-match series, in which India were thrashed by the Kiwis 4-0.
With a long list of talented Indian batsmen waiting in the wings, it would be a difficult task for Raina to cement his place back in the side. With the comeback of Cheteshwar Pujara in the ODI team, Indian selectors made it clear that the Saurashtrian batsman is also in the scheme of things for the 2015 World Cup. If Pujara plays at the top order, which he in all probability will, the overcrowded middle-order will witness even more healthy competition.
Is it just a poor patch for the middle-order batsman, or is pressure taking its toll on his game? Whatever it is, Raina needs to spend some more time at the nets to get his confidence back, which can do wonders for him as well as for Team India. A cricket team always needs players like Virat Kohli and Raina who are capable of lifting the morale of a team, even with an outstanding run-out or by taking an incredible catch.
In the past, Raina has proved what he is capable of. In the 2011 World Cup, even though he didn’t play any big innings, he played several crucial knocks to help India become the World Champions for the second time in the history of the game.
The aggressive Raina is undoubtedly a match-winner when it comes to limited overs. He has a knack of hitting the bowlers neatly over the top, has wide array of shots, can change gears quickly and is also a good runner between the wickets. Apart from being a more than handy off-spinner, the southpaw is a live-wire on the field too. All these traits make him a complete package.
Raina has a good chance to prove himself in IPL-7 and World Twenty20 by scoring a few runs and earn his place back in the ODIs before the 2015 World Cup. As far as his work ethics are concerned, they are commendable, so one can expect him to bounce back soon.