Saturday, January 29, 2011

WORLD CUP TRAGEDIES OF SURESH RAINA

As the 10th edition of One Day Cricket's largest event looms ever closer, here is a closer look at the Indian team, and in particular, at a man called Suresh Raina.

A few days ago, I had posted this where I had suggested that the 11-member team of India should include Raina, Yuvraj, Dhoni and Pathan in the middle order, and leave Virat Kohli on the bench at least to start the tournament with. My thinking was this - keeping an inform player on the bench will make the out-of-form batsmen (Raina and Yuvraj) realise that they have to perform not only for India but also for their place. If they do, they are India's big match winners (bigger in impact than Virat Kohli)... and if they don't, then we can always have Kohli replacing them after a couple of matches. Since each team plays 6 matches at the league stage in this World Cup (and India has Ireland, Netherlands and Bangladesh in our group), the impact of an early loss or two can be taken care of later.

The second important reason was also that Yuvraj and Raina will provide Dhoni with part-time bowling options... something that can come in very handy in the sub-continental conditions. But one thing is clear - this selection of the middle order spots is a potential headache to MS Dhoni. Already, I have read some really diverse views everywhere about the composition of the Indian team.

Golandaaz has suggested pushing Sehwag to middle order, Vidooshak has suggested dropping Sehwag altogether, SP has suggested Sehwag in the middle and dropping Yuvraj as well as Yusuf in favour of Kohli and Chawla, Mahek is in favour of going for specialist bowlers instead of part-timers, Govind also thinks that Sehwag would be better of at No. 4 or No. 6, Mayank (Freehit) feels that if someone is to be dropped then it should be Raina, and I am sure there are a lot of other different variations being planned in the heads of Indian cricket fans.

Finally, we all know that the question of who is dropped and who is not will be finally answered by MS Dhoni in assistance with Gary Kirsten. But no one can deny that Raina's place in the squad is not a 100% certainty today... and definitely much less sure today than it was about a year ago or even two years ago.

The reason why I am writing this post about Suresh Raina is that this is the second time we are seeing pre - World Cup blues for this southpaw. Raina made his international debut in July 2005 against Sri Lanka at Dambulla and got out for a golden duck. The not-so-great debut aside, he was quite impressive in his first few performances for India and also scored 3 very good half-centuries against England when they toured India in 2006.

Till the end of that England ODI series, he had scored 406 runs for India at an average of 45.11 and a strike rate of 89.82. After that came a rough patch of form. He scored 246 runs in his next 17 ODIs at an average of 17.57 and a strike rate of 63.08 with a top score of 40. This was when he was dropped... right before the World Cup 2007.

India performed miserably in that tournament... and voices from some corners said that he should have been a part of the team despite his less-than-convincing performances. But his first chance at a World Cup for India had gone. His next chance to play for India came almost a year and a half later in June 2008 against Pakistan in Bangladesh.

Since then till the end of our Bangladesh tour in January 2010, he scored 1602 runs in 54 matches at an average of 45.77 and a strike rate of 96.62 with 3 hundreds and 12 fifties. Because of such a good display of batsmanship, he was assigned the captain of Team India for its tour of Zimbabwe in a tri-series also featuring Sri Lanka. Since then, it has again been a downhill road for Raina.

425 runs in 21 matches at an average of 25.00 and a strike rate of 91.01 with just 1 fifty has again resulted in question marks over his spot. It hasn't helped that his weaknesses against short-pitched pacy bowling have been rediscovered and that after a good debut on a very flat track, his Test performances have also been disappointing. When Pujara was given his Test spot, the ice had broken. MS Dhoni had sent out a signal that Suresh Raina is not indispensable and can be dropped.

Yet he played all the 5 ODIs on South African tour, scored 111 at an average of 22.20 and strike rate of 78.72. Now before the start of yet another World Cup, a sword is hanging over his neck. It may even fall before India faces Bangladesh in the first match of the World Cup 2011. It will be quite a tragedy if a talent like him goes wasted yet again before the Cup that Counts...

7 comments:

Vidooshak said...

Nice post. Raina is vital for India to win. There is no specific replacement for him or his role in the team. Kohli might fit the bill, but that would mean, we lose a bowling option. No big deal perhaps. Hopefully, he rediscovers his vim.

likeatracerbullet said...

This will remain a headache for the Indian team in the first half of the World Cup..there is no easy solution really..in India, the heart rules more than the head..so I believe that Raina will somehow play ahead of Kohli, atleast in the first few matches..

mohit said...

Raina should be playing in the world cup as he's one of the,if not the best,match winner of the indian team....you see,he has been batting too low in the order for a player of his calibre...he should be at no 4 as he's the kind of player who can accumulate as well as switch into aggression....his average at no 4 is 55.83......raina's recent interview also suggested that he does want to be higher up the order than no 6...besides that he is the best fielder in the indian side and can bowl handy off spin....by the way,he isn't weak against short balls....that's just a myth...hopefully raina will bang for india...if he's kept out,it will be gross injustice to him and all that can be said is:" get ready for a replay of 2007" !

Govind Raj said...

As of now, Raina's stock is definitely too low. But so is that of Yuvi.

Yusuf is sizzling and Virat is rock steady.

But Yuvi being a left arm spinner and also more successful as a bowler, should get the nod. He also doesn't have any obvious weakness against the 'short ball'. Like it or not, Raina does have a problem there.

But for the initial part of the tourney, Dhoni will prefer to choose between Virat and Yusuf.

I like Shridhar's logic of keeping Virat out at least initially to spur Yuvi and Raina ! Quite possible.

Shridhar Jaju said...

Govind, in all the posts that I have written on this topic, I never took cognizance of the fact that Yuvraj in the only bowler in our squad (barring Piyush Chawla) who spins the ball away from the right hander.

I think this fact shall give a huge boost to his chances of selection to the XI... even if he were to struggle for form with the bat during the tournament!

And Mohit, you are the first person I have read who believe that Raina does not have a problem with short bowling. I have no doubt in my mind that he does... and Dhoni thinks so too! Otherwise there wouldn't have been any other reason to drop him from the Test XI in South Africa.

Anonymous said...

Raina s 1 of d most dangerous batsmen in the subcontinent...his recent form also suggests that the pressure at no.6 or 7 is too high and so he must b brought slightly higher up in the order...mayb that could let him settle down and later go after d bowling...a few gud knocks and he shud b bak 2 form...speaking of bad form skipper dhoni has tried even cumin up d order 2 rediscover lost talent and has failed...so its time dat des guyz get fixed spots in the line-up...

Shridhar Jaju said...

Anonymous, if Raina were to be sent to a higher spot, then whom would he replace?

Surely, he cannot open... so there is no question of him taking Sehwag's or Tendulkar's spot! Gambhir and Kohli have done very well for India at No. 3. Despite this, there are chances that Kohli may not figure in the XI.

If Kohli doesn't, then Raina can compete with Yuvraj for the No. 4 spot. If Kohli does play and so does Raina, then Kohli will take No. 4 and Raina can hope for No. 5 then.

I have a feeling that if one of India's top-3 click and play well, most of the middle order blues will be sorted out. Of late, with M Vijay and R Sharma being tried out at the top, the pressure has almost immediately fallen on the middle order. This should change in the full-strength Indian team.

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