Saturday, 15 September 2012

Suresh Raina and the Test Conundrum

Ever since the retirement of Sourav Ganguly from test matches in late 2008, India have been looking for a reliable replacement for him. Four years have passed but India still haven’t got a player who has sealed the spot. Now with the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the numbers of vacant spots have increased. There are a lot of contenders for the 3 spots mainly Virat Kohli, Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Badrinath, Tiwary and Suresh Raina. Raina’s case is the most interesting. He has been around in the one day squad for around 5 years now and has become a very valuable player in the ODI team. It was natural that the selectors gave him an opportunity in Test matches after Yuvraj Singh couldn’t come up with consistent performances. Raina made a spectacular start to his Test career with a 100 on debut and a counter attacking 41 in a difficult chase in his 2nd test. It looked as though India finally found someone who could fill in the number 6 spot in the Test side. That’s when all the problems began for him. Bowlers around the world realized his weakness for short pitched bowling and heavily exposed him. He hasn’t found a way yet to counter such type of bowling which has resulted in his extremely poor performances in Tests.

A bouncer when in whites, Suresh Raina lands in all sorts of trouble
One of the things I have noticed with Raina is that he struggles a lot against short pitch bowling more in Tests than the limited overs. Agreed that in tests, since there is no limit on number of overs per bowler, he will be tested for a longer time and with attacking fields set, a slight miscalculation can result him in becoming out. It has got him in a state where he has been expecting a short ball every time a fast bowler comes on to bowl. As a result, it generally isn’t the short ball which gets him out, but the balls pitched on a good length area which gets him in trouble as he is waiting on the backfoot. A classic example was during the 1st test in Centurion during India’s tour to South Africa in late 2010, Kallis kept catching Raina neither forward or backwards, and eventually Raina just ended up guiding the ball to the slip cordon! But what I have observed is that in the limited overs, if there is a short ball he either ducks it or just smashes it out of the park, whereas in Tests he really gets confused. When he decides to pull, he is not really sure whether to keep it down or just smash it out of the ground, which more or less results in him ending up in awkward positions. With the amount of limited overs cricket India have been playing recently (including IPL), one gets the feeling that Raina hasn’t really had much time to work out his flaws in the longer format of the game. With a packed schedule he hasn’t been able to go back to the domestic scene and play few first class games to iron out the chinks in his batting technique.

When in the blues, a short ball is heading only in one direction
A quick glance at the Future Tours Program (FTP) as listed by the ICC (FTP Calender), we can see that India aren’t slotted to play any games during the months April to September 2013. Obviously the Indian Premier League (IPL) will take place in April and May, but I feel a county season for Raina will do a world of good for him. It will not only help him improve his batting skills, but also give him an exposure to a better set of fast bowlers in conditions which aren’t really conducive to batting.

Temperament at the highest level has never been an issue with Raina, he has helped India win in a number of games from tight situations. It’s just more of an adaptation to the longer format which he needs to get used to, which can be done by only playing more and more first class games.

Let us hope that he sorts out his issues soon and start entertaining us in the longest format of the game too!


Rohit Ramachandran PoduvalAbout Rohit Ramachandran Poduval
A Classical Leg Spinner, Writer and Software Engineer. Please feel free to add my to your circles. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook

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