RAJKOT: Before the start of the South Africa series there was too much focus on MS Dhoni and his captaincy. After every loss the criticism increased. However, he managed to shrug it off with an impressive batting effort in the second ODI in Indore.
What that win did was deflect attention from the poor form of Suresh Raina as the skipper invited all the attention on himself with his on-field performance and post-match comments to the media.
There is a school of thought that Raina is too important a player in the shorter format and one shouldn’t really take too hard a look at his stats as more often than not, he gets to bat very few deliveries. Also, he has the ability to chip in with his electric fielding with a good stop, acrobatic catch or a game-changing run out. On responsive pitches, he can also bowl five or six economical overs of fastish offspin and get a few wickets.
However, with more than a decade of experience and having played over 200 ODIs, he is now a senior statesman in the limited-overs outfit and hence people expect him to deliver more consistently than he is doing at the moment. The shot which he played to get out for a duck in the last innings has nothing to do with his form; it has a lot to do with his attitude.
Even former India opener Anshuman Gaekwad agrees and said: “There is absolutely nothing wrong in his form. Earlier, he used to get those ones and twos, get his feet moving and gradually go for the big shots. Once gets going he is a different player. But now he is playing too many shots too early.”
He further added: “There are times when he doesn’t get enough balls to settle down, and then it is understandable when he goes for the big ones from the word go. But in Indore, there were plenty of overs remaining when he came out to bat. He has tasted success with his aggressive brand of cricket, but he should also know how to curb those instincts at times.”
Raina last played a match-defining knock during the World Cup quarterfinal against Bangladesh when he scored 65 coming in at No 5, ahead of Dhoni. But during the Bangladesh tour, Raina was moved down the order as Dhoni thought the southpaw would be better off finishing the innings.
But in an interview to BCCI.TV, Raina had said how difficult it is to bat at No 5 or No 6: “Those are not easy positions to bat. You go out there and have to score 15 runs in five balls or 50 in 20 balls. It is a position that comes with a lot of pressure. You don’t get regular chances to bat long and even then if you don’t score big in three games, there is pressure from everywhere. I know how it feels.”
Former India stumper and chairman of selectors Kiran More has an interesting take on the issue. “May be the Indian think-tank is trying some different compositions and when you do that you can’t always guarantee success. As far as Raina’s form is concerned, every cricketer goes through this. He has been aggressive but has not been very consistent, and that disturbs the balance in the team and puts too much pressure on MS (Dhoni). I have a gut feeling that he will get a big one in Rajkot.”
Another former India ‘keeper Nayan Mongia too believed that Raina has not done enough lately. “Yes, he hasn’t done pretty well of late, but he has been a terrific player at No 6. He is street smart, courageous and it is just a matter of time before he comes good,” said Mongia.