September 25, 2020

Suresh Raina: A shoulder for giants – cricket



No different illustrious profession for the Indian cricket group is as tough to scale back to its essence as Suresh Raina’s. Give it some thought—when you had been to roll-call the names of the seven Indians, other than Raina, to have featured in between 200 and 300 ODIs, their particular person function and even that means tends to instantly crystalize within the thoughts’s eye; be it Anil Kumble, Virat Kohli, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Javagal Srinath, Kapil Dev or Rohit Sharma.

Neglect function and that means, can we even pin down Raina’s true batting place? For a person whose profession spanned 226 one-dayers, Raina didn’t as soon as get to carry down the identical place within the batting order for ten successive innings. That’s proper, not as soon as; in almost 15 years.

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Raina’s longest string of ODI innings in the identical place, when you should know, was 9. This was when he was promoted to No.5 for the long-winded CB Sequence in 2012, instantly after he batted at No.6, No.three and No.7 in the identical sequence in opposition to the West Indies.

This newfound stability of No.5 was a fixture via that tri-series in Australia and even spilled over into one match of the following Asia Cup in Bangladesh, the place he was then pushed as much as No.4. There, in opposition to the hosts he obliged with a quickfire fifty in a match remembered for Sachin Tendulkar’s hundredth hundred, solely to be promptly demoted subsequent recreation. By the point the subsequent sequence took place in Sri Lanka, Raina was establishing store at No.6 once more. Someplace alongside the way in which in a nauseatingly up-and-down journey, Raina’s place and considerably, his goal, slipped via the cracks and was by no means discovered once more.

These cracks had been fairly large, on condition that Raina’s profession spanned two mighty eras in Indian cricket. In 2004 and whereas nonetheless a teen, Raina was the primary amongst his era to infiltrate a facet fizzing to the brim with superstars—Tendulkar, Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and in addition, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh.

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Even together with his precocious play, establishing himself amongst these names was at all times going to be tough, simply because it was going to be to reestablish himself within the following period. For, by then, new superstars had changed outdated superstars fairly seamlessly; Kohli, Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane had arrived, and so they quickly buttonholed the brand new narrative.

Trapped between the perfect top-order on this planet and the perfect finisher within the enterprise in MS Dhoni, Raina’s existence within the Indian group had changed into a deeply claustrophobic expertise.

SUPPORTING ACT

The cleft between two eras at all times makes for an enchanting examine in any sport. Throughout the house of two months in 2010—a time when the ageing superstars had been making manner for his or her nascent replacements—Raina made his first look as an ODI captain and as a Take a look at batsman. The solar had shone equally on Lleyton Hewitt within the hole 12 months between Pete Sampras’s retirement and the rise of a younger Roger Federer, and the world lay in await Raina to make hay.

He did, considerably. In his very first Take a look at innings, Raina struck his first and solely hundred, in opposition to a Sri Lankan facet coming to phrases with the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan from the earlier Take a look at and on a Colombo pitch the place two double a whole lot and two different centuries had already been struck (it may have been 5 a whole lot other than Raina’s, however Sehwag was out for 99).

His initiation into the management function didn’t go fairly as nicely. Billed as and prepped to be the heir-apparent to Dhoni, Raina captained a second-string Indian facet (names that will quickly flip family) in a tri-series in Zimbabwe that additionally featured a transitioning Sri Lanka. India didn’t make the ultimate and Raina didn’t rating large runs in a forgettable sequence, one that may maybe solely be remembered for Sharma’s first and second ODI a whole lot.

Raina would go on to captain India in two extra sequence —in opposition to West Indies in 2011 and Bangladesh in 2014—and win each of them, however by then the group had found a successor to Dhoni in Kohli, who had lengthy showcased his natural-born management instincts.

What makes for a curious however telling element is the truth that even when Raina may resolve his personal place within the batting order, he shied away from a starring function. Within the 12 ODIs during which he captained India, Raina batted above No.5 solely as soon as—at No.Four in a rain-curtailed recreation in Trinidad. Maybe he was selfless or maybe he was conscious of his limitations, nevertheless it was on this function of a foil to the greats that he actually excelled in.

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Simply eight months after he was earmarked as a future captain, Raina misplaced his place within the ODI beginning eleven at the start of the World Cup at residence. However when he returned, simply in time for the knockouts of the match, Raina proved simply how important an instinctive link-player was to the group. That service was quickly summoned within the Ahmedabad quarterfinal in opposition to Australia, the place he braved ferocious bouncers to attain 34 unbeaten and invaluable runs in a defining partnership with Yuvraj.

Such contributions of significance got here usually for some time. Within the gnarly semifinal in opposition to Pakistan, a low-scoring affair in Mohali, Raina was one in all solely three batsmen within the Indian group to breach the 30-run mark.

Then, a 12 months later in Hobart, Raina lent his shoulder for an additional large to face on—Kohli stole the present with an era-defining 133*, nevertheless it was Raina’s unbeaten 40 that ensured Kohli may play his pictures within the first place.

Make no mistake, although. The decrease middle-order is an unforgiving place, particularly in a rustic obsessive about numbers and never worth. Each subsequent Kohli, Dhawan and Sharma hundred highlighted Raina’s modest returns. His finish was nigh.

THEN IT FELL APART

Thirty-three isn’t any age for a modern-day batsman to retire. However the fact stays that Raina’s worldwide profession had been on life assist by the point he was in his late twenties. The Take a look at profession was the primary to go, and by its finish, it was a narrative of noughts.

Within the autumn of 2012 and through India’s first Take a look at sequence for the reason that retirements of Dravid and VVS Laxman, Raina was introduced again into the fold. The 2-match sequence in opposition to New Zealand at residence was his first in a 12 months, what with him within the abyss since his twin geese in opposition to England on the Oval.

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The second Take a look at in Bangalore witnessed Kohli’s first Take a look at hundred and Raina’s final Take a look at look on Indian soil.

In what grew to become a tough fourth innings chase after the autumn of Tendulkar and Cheteshwar Pujara’s wickets, Raina tried to launch the strain by dancing down the wicket to off-spinner Jeetan Patel, solely to overlook the ball utterly and get bowled. He was out for zero and didn’t play one other Take a look at for 3 years.

When he did, on the Sydney Cricket Floor in 2015, he was out on one other pair—making it 5 geese in his final seven innings. And that, as they are saying, was that.

The wheels didn’t come off fairly as spectacularly together with his limited-overs profession, however the fall was simply as staggered. Raina’s last look in India’s ODI shirt got here in England in 2018. However earlier than that sequence, he had final performed ODIs for India in 2015.

With a batting order ripe with match-winners, Raina had change into—in a group that he was as soon as destined to steer no much less—an afterthought. To the purpose the place even on the day he accepted that he had had sufficient, Raina’s retirement performed second fiddle to a much bigger and glossier send-off.