Has Suresh Raina already played his last ODI for India?
A viral fever ruled out a possible comeback for Suresh Raina in the ODI series against the Kiwis and he has since been dropped from the squad for ODI series against England. Having last played an ODI against the South Africans in late 2015 and seemingly out of contention for the ICC Champions Trophy, Raina has had a dormant period in Indian colours. He was dropped for the ODIs against Australia Down Under and subsequently dropped from the T20 squad for the series against the West Indies in the USA.
Suresh Raina had been one of India's best lower middle-order batsmen in limited overs cricket since the mid-2000s. Despite having an obvious flaw against the short ball, Raina had the ability to score quick runs and finish off matches. In the company of a very supportive captain in MS Dhoni, Raina flourished.
He faced frequent criticism for his inability to handle short balls, but more often than not a crucial half century or a 40 ball 70 followed to silence his critics. He was superb against the spinners and on his day tormented the pace bowlers with inside out drives and slogs over mid wicket, one of his trademark shots.
However, questions regarding his place in the side became more frequent as runs dried up and the weakness against the short ball became more pronounced. Mitchell Johnson exploited it to great effect in the series against India in 2013.
In his last series against the South Africans, his troubles against the short ball became a real headache. His scores in the series read - 3, 0, 0, 53, 12. Even in his only knock above 15, the 53 in Chennai, he was very edgy against the likes of Rabada and Morkel.
Apart from his obvious troubles against the pace and bounce of the Protea fast bowlers, he also failed to connect with several of his favourite slog sweeps against Imran Tahir in the death.
Questionable recent form
From October 2014, Raina has played in 24 ODIs, scoring 612 runs at an average of 32.21 and one hundred, which, despite coming against Zimbabwe in the World Cup, was a top class knock under pressure. While his average hasn't taken a beating, considering that he has averaged similarly right through his career, it is his modes of dismissal that is a worrying factor.
A bulk of the runs during this period have come against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and it masks his poor performances against South Africa and Sri Lanka at home. If he has struggled to score at home, where scores of 350+ have been racked up easily, he could well be a walking wicket in foreign countries.
In Raina's absence, a few guys have made a claim for the No.5 and No.6 spots. With Dhoni looking to bat at No.4 these days, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav are the frontrunners to slot in. Raina may have been in the squad for the 1st ODI had he recovered from a viral fever, but in his absence, Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and Manish Pandey have played vital knocks.
Manish, despite a tendency to play poor shots once he gets starts, has got the selector's faith. A top notch hundred in a chase against Australia in Australia showed that he is unperturbed by the occasion. That the knock came at a time Dhoni's finishing powers were believed to be waning is all the more important.
Also read: 5 reasons why Hardik Pandya must be nurtured
Kedar Jadhav has also taken his chance in this series. He made a good looking 41 in tough conditions and importantly did the additional job of bowling a few part-timers and getting the odd wicket. In fact, he got 3 of them in the 3rd ODI. That he is a good aggressor down the order with the ability to rotate the strike makes him a pleasing prospect.
In Hardik Pandya, India have the much sought after pace bowling all-rounder. Hardik, after some mediocre performances in the T20 team, played a more matured looking innings in the 2nd ODI against the Kiwis which India lost. He showcased a totally different aspect to his batting, thus emerging from the shadows of an Afridi-like image. His bowling has also improved as he showed in the first ODI where he employed some smart pace variations to good effect.
Have Raina's chances ended?
With the trio of Manish, Hardik and Jadhav posing a huge threat, Raina's return to the ODI squad seems a slim possibility at the moment. While he is only 29, his shortcomings against the bouncer and inability to excel in foreign conditions will count against him.
The three newbies are just starting their international careers and it might be too soon to compare them to a veteran like Raina. But given their current form and India's requirements after Dhoni's promotion to No.4, Raina's inclusion in an ODI team does not make sense.
The major upcoming tournaments in One Day Internationals are the Champions Trophy in 2017 and the World Cup in 2019, both of which are in England, where the tracks do not suit Raina's style of play.
Although age is on his side, he will need a few good performances at the domestic level to be re-considered for ODIs. For now, it looks like his ODI career is heading towards a quick finish.
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