One of the major plusses for India from the recently concluded India-Sri Lanka series has been the form of young Suresh Raina and his adept handling of Ajantha Mendis.
One of the major plusses for India from the recently concluded India-Sri Lanka series has been the form of young Suresh Raina and his adept handling of Ajantha Mendis. Coming into the ODIs, India were mentally scarred by the spinner but Raina in the company of captain M S Dhoni helped India get over it. His knocks of 53 and 76 in the 3rd and 4th ODI respectively were worth its weight in gold as India clinched their first bi-lateral series win in Sri Lanka. More importantly it was the confidence with much he tacked Mendis that was very refreshing. He was amongst the few Indians who were able to read Mendis.
Raina's revival began much before he set foot on Lankan soil. After being in and out of the side during the Greg Chappell era - who rated him very highly - Raina forced his way back into the side with some smashing performances in the IPL for the Chennai Super Kings and played a big hand in them making it to the finals. With three 50s and an aggregate of 421 runs, Raina was one of the stars of the series. It only helped that he had Indian skipper M S Dhoni leading that pack of cricketers too.
The talent of this 21-year-old was never in doubt. The matchwining 81 not out he scored against England in the 2006 ODI series against Sri Lanka is a case in point. It was again him and Dhoni who rescued India from a precarious 92/5 and take them home chasing 226 at Faridabad. But like many other youngsters before him, Raina too struggled to live up to the expectations and frittered away, managing just one half century in fifteen attempts. It did not help that Greg Chappell openly went about showering praises on his talent even when he was underperforming, throwing his wicket away after getting stars. He managed to cling on to his place for a while thanks to his exceptional fielding but it was only a matter of time before he was shown the door.
Thankfully for Raina, he had age on his side. He was recalled for the tri-series in Australia which India won handsomely and was also part of the triumphant T2O World Cup squad. But he had precious little to do in both the tournaments. He had to wait until the Asia Cup to prove his worth again and this time he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
With two centuries and an 84, Raina was back in the reckoning. Though the tons came against relatively weaker sides like Bangladesh and Hong Kong, it was the manner in which Raina scored the runs that was impressive. Determination was writ large on his face as he went about his job of reviving his international career.
And then came this Lankan tour for which Raina seemed ready. After all he had scores to settle. It was here that he had made an unsuccessful debut three years back falling leg before to Murali first ball, looking completely at sea. But the tables had turned this time round. A confident and slightly more experienced Raina was now picking Murali and Mendis by reading them through their hands as he himself revealed.
This talented lad from Uttar Pradesh has a big role to play in the future Indian cricket and hence it was of utmost importance that he got his act right. With his electrifying fielding and part time off-spin he can offer a lot to India cricket that just being a good middle-order batsman.
Raina has begun his second innings on the right note. But he has to make sure that he does not falter this time round.