Team India has started its preparations for the upcoming ICC World Cup 2019 and so far on their England tour, they have done well in the limited overs cricket. Despite the recent loss to England, India has been preparing a blueprint for their World Cup campaign.
India has their openers sorted out with Rohit and Dhawan. Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah most likely have their places confirmed in the Indian team on the road to World Cup 2019.
However, doubts still remain for the no.4 batsman in the side, with Manish Pandey, KL Rahul, Suresh Raina and many more being tried at the position, but none have been able to fulfill the role long term.
However, the most curious case is that of Suresh Raina.
Raina recently made his comeback into the Indian team for the tour of South Africa in the T20I team after more than a year out of the team due to poor form and fitness issues. Raina had also failed to pass the yo-yo test as well at one point of time. But Raina managed to stage a comeback into the team thanks to his performances in domestic cricket.
Raina, in the T20I series against England, lost his no.3 position to KL Rahul, a position where he had batted during the South African series and even won a Man of the match also.
However, his performance since then hasn’t been convincing enough for team management to see him as a potential long-term solution, especially with World Cup 2019 in sight.
Raina was included in the ODI team to England only because the original selection, Ambati Rayudu, who had an exemplary IPL 2018, had failed to clear the mandatory yo-yo fitness test before the team left England.
The Indian team management has tried many players at the no.6 role including Raina, but the best fit so far that they found was Kedar Jadhav.
Jadhav had been a regular member of the team till he injured his hamstring during the first match of the IPL 2018 and since then, Indian team management is trying to find a stop-gap arrangement till Jadhav gets fit.
Virat Kohli was comfortable enough with Jadhav batting at no.6 and bowling 4-5 overs per game, sharing the fifth bowler duties with Hardik Pandya. He has been doing the same with Raina as well and it has worked for the while, but the confidence of letting Raina bowl more than 2-3 overs is still not there in the Indian team leadership.
His batting is notoriously tagged as being vulnerable against the short ball and though he has found some ways to cope with it; his innings so far in the only ODI he has batted in, was found wanting against the ball aimed at his rib cage. He also failed to keep going after a very good start and got out to a nothing shot.
It’s time that the team management relieves MS Dhoni of his finisher role and provides him with a cushion as someone else as the finisher, along with Hardik Pandya. Dhoni should be moved to no.5 in the batting order; but Raina, who was earlier, poised to take over from Dhoni as the finisher, lost his chance and came down the pecking order.
Once, a regular in the Indian limited overs team, Suresh Raina is now picked on basis of his form and a couple of bad series on his part might mean selectors moving on from him.
Suresh Raina still has a lot of gas in his tank, but the fact that he only made it into the ODI team was because Ambati Rayudu failed to pass the yo-yo test, means that he was a replacement and is not in the selectors’ plans for ODI setup.
With team India selectors only looking at Suresh Raina as the T20I specialist and waiting for Jadhav to get fit, World Cup 2019 campaign might be far off for Raina for time being.