You’d think you’d be more convinced about a player after he’d hit 80 off 62 balls in a one-day match. At worst, you’d think you’d feel the same about him. Yet somehow Suresh Raina actually managed to erode our confidence in him. This despite the fact that we said India might be better off picking 10 players during their last Test series.
Raina in one-day cricket
Before we continue, let’s be clear that we have few qualms about Raina as a one-day player. If a World XI were playing in India (and where else would it be playing) he’d be in our team were we for some inexplicable reason made chief selector.
But that’s very much our point. He’s not proving anything with innings like the one yesterday against England. Everyone knows he can play like that in that situation. That isn’t news.
Watching him in England, it seemed to us that he had Test ambitions. Although he struggled, knee-jerk England media suggestions that he ‘didn’t care’ were well wide of the mark in our eyes. Struggling for runs and losing matches, he retained his enthusiasm admirably. However, if he is bothered about Test cricket, there are some things he needs to address.
Watch them ribs
Suresh Raina has to learn to cope with deliveries aimed at his body on bouncier pitches. We’re deliberately trying to make a distinction between ‘short-pitched bowling’ and ‘deliveries that pass above the waist’ there.
To say Raina is weak against the short ball is misleading, because when it pitches short, he’s fine. It’s when the ball’s fuller yet still gets up when he looks like a member of the crowd who’s grabbed a helmet and bat and slipped onto the field of play.
He can’t really do anything to answer this question in India. Even if the pitches don’t turn as much as some people choose to imagine, they are low-bouncing. A bowler aiming at the body has to pitch the ball sufficiently short that the batsman has plenty of time to react. Trying to prove you can play the short ball in one-day matches in India is like trying to acclimatise to extreme heat by coming to England for the summer.
Speaking of heat, that’s how Virat Kohli enhanced his Test case where Raina harmed his – he kept his cool. Kohli doesn’t mind trawling his vocabulary for some robust adjectives when chatting to the bowlers, but his batting is totally controlled. Raina’s isn’t.
The more England got stuck into Raina, the more frenetic he got. It was like he was careering down a steep hill on a bike with no brakes. Yes, he was gaining momentum, but there was only one way it was going to end. The fact that Steven Finn lost his cool in even more embarrassing fashion drew attention away from Raina’s own internal meltdown, but it still happened.
Raina can continue to enjoy a rather pleasant Groundhog Day in one-day cricket if he so chooses, but if he does want something more, he should look to Kohli. Raina landed a few blows, but Kohli got the job done – that’s the difference.