There are good players, there are bad players, and then, there are gifted players. These players, more often than not, are impact players who possess the ability to turn a match on its head. Numbers don’t matter to them. What defines them is the impact they have on a particular match. Above that, it is their ability to score vital runs under precarious situations that allows them to carve out a unique identity for themselves. Simply put, these players are called game-changers. Suresh Raina, the middle-order batsman from India, is one such player.
He might not be a perfect physical specimen, he might not possess the best batting technique, and he has also been caught wanting against the short-pitched deliveries, but despite all his flaws and limitations, this lad from Uttar Pradesh has all the characteristics needed by a batsman to become a match winner.
Raina has remained out of favour for a long time now. He remained on the sidelines since failing the yo-yo test. His place in the side has also come under jeopardy after the emergence of India’s ‘utility man’ Kedar Jadhav. Kedar, with his slow left-arm, bowling, can curtail the flow of runs while also picking up a wicket or two. The likes of Manish Pandey and Ambati Rayudu have also been scoring heavily in domestic cricket. An influx of a large number of middle-order batsmen is one of the foremost reasons behind Raina’s ouster from the national side.
He cleared the yo-yo test and back into the side for the ODI series against England.
What Raina Brings to the Table?
Suresh Raina, in all fairness, is very much a complete cricketer. Not only can he score runs with the bat in pressure situations but can also choke the opposition with his energetic presence on the field. This bubbly lad from Ghaziabad is a live-wire on the field. He has the ability to choke the opposition by stopping vital runs and pulling off some spectacular catches. There’s a bubble of energy that surrounds Raina. Even when he doesn’t contribute with the bat, his presence on the field infuses energy into his teammates. His cheerful presence often brings respite when the situation is precarious and tough.
Well, it goes without saying that Raina is a match winner. With more than 5,500 runs under his belt in the ODI format, Raina is a seasoned campaigner. A fraction over 5,500 ODI runs aren’t enough to highlight the impact he has had on the matches he has played. Frankly, Raina’s worth cannot be weighed against the runs he has scored. His worth needs to be estimated keeping in mind the precarious situations under which he has scored his runs.
The big match player
Keeping in mind the impact he has had on match situations over all these years, it certainly won’t be wrong to say that Raina is a big-match player. After Raina’s impressive show in the 2011 World Cup, where he made fighting 30s against the Aussies in the Quarter Final and against Pakistan in the Semi Final, the then Indian coach Gary Kirsten famously remarked that Raina helped them win the World Cup.
His performances in the 2015 World Cup were instrumental in helping the Indians a place in the Semi-Final. Quick-fire fifties against Pakistan in the group stages and against Bangladesh in the Quarter- Final, along with an all-important century against Zimbabwe threw ample light on his ability to score vital runs under pressure situations to help steer the side out of tumultuous waters.
Answer to the middle-order conundrum:
With more than 200 matches under his belt, it certainly won’t be an overstatement to say that Raina is an ODI specialist. He brings a wealth of experience into the one-day setup. With India struggling to fill the number 4 slot, Raina can be a possible answer to the team’s middle-order riddle. The thing that may work in Raina’s favour is that he’s a middle-order batsman, and not an opener who needs to be fit into the middle order.
The utility man
Raina, in all fairness, can also be assigned the ‘utility man’ job. The fact that he’s better batsman than many goes without saying. He too, just like Kedar Jadhav, has a knack of picking up wickets at crucial phases. Again, it has less to do with the number of wickets and more to do with the impact those wickets create. Given all his experience in the limited overs format, Raina is India’s best bet at number 4 and can also be assigned the utility man’s role.
A wise man had once said: “Nothing, absolutely nothing, can beat experience”. Well, going by this saying, we can only hope that Raina quickly breaks into the middle-order and makes his presence felt before the mega event begins in May 2019.