“The third game will be a crucial one for Raina and one can expect the southpaw to come fighting as he has done it in the past”
When India won the 2011 World Cup at home, the side had many heroes, who played crucial roles on different occasions. But there was one unsung hero in that line-up, who played a vital role in the knock-out stages to carry the Indian ship over the line. It was Indian southpaw Suresh Raina; he played two crucial innings in the quarter-final and semi-final against Australia and Pakistan respectively. He was an essential part of the Indian line-up, but his name often gets lost when one goes back in time and rekindles memories of that historic World Cup.
Raina showed his cool head in the quarter-final against Australia, which was also his second game of the tournament. The southpaw scored a brisk 28-ball 36 and stitched a match-winning partnership with Yuvraj Singh. Raina then played a 34-run knock in the semi-final against Pakistan to help India cross the 250-run mark. His contribution may have just been of 70 runs, but these are also the most important runs in that World Cup. He kept his calm when the chips were down and showed extreme composure.
Raina has not been among the Indian scheme of things in the recent times but fortune favoured him just before the England series. Ambati Rayudu failed to clear the yo-yo fitness test after being named in the Indian squad. Rayudu had an outstanding run in the IPL, scoring runs in heaps, but his failure in the fitness test cost him dearly. Raina was announced as a replacement and this was undoubtedly the last opportunity for him to make his presence unavoidable for the future. He has the experience; he has the game, but has looked rusty in the recent times. His weakness against the short balls has been brutally exploited by the opponents.
Coming to England, it was always going to be a challenge for Raina; he didn’t get an opportunity to bat in the first game that India won convincingly. In the second encounter, England came out all guns blazing and scored a mammoth 322. Joe Root scored a much-needed century to help his side post a challenging total. In response, India lost three early wickets and were struggling in the run-chase. Raina walked in when India were under the pump and at the crease was Indian skipper Virat Kohli. It was an ideal opportunity for Raina to stamp his authority and prove his worth in the ODI side.
Raina started off well and along with Kohli started building a crucial partnership. It was important for this partnership to click if India were eyeing to get anywhere close to England’s total. This pair had the experience and has done it in the past. Raina played his natural game and scored runs at a good rate, which was crucial. He was fortunate to have been dropped by Jos Buttler and Jason Roy respectively and had to make the most of two reprieves.
Kohli was always going to be the chief architect of this run-chase after the top-order collapse, but his dismissal shattered a lot of Indian hopes. Still, India had a lot of batting to come in MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya and Raina was all set out in the middle. Dhoni and Raina hold a magnificent record at the very same venue when India toured England back in 2011 and their most loyal fans would have thought of them doing the same once again, but it wasn’t to be. With just 46 runs on the board, Raina was cleaned up Adil Rashid.
The required run-rate was only on the hike when Raina decided to take on Rashid and target the shorter boundary. Being a left-handed batsman, Raina had an advantage against the leg-spinner Rashid. Very often, the shorter boundaries compel the batsmen to go for a big shot. Raina missed this one. India lost the game by a massive margin and the series has been squared between both the sides.
One can expect both the teams to come out hard in the final to emerge victorious. Although Raina was the highest-scorer from the Indian dugout in the Lord’s encounter, but he certainly needs some big scores under his belt. He was fortunate to get a spot for the series, but he wouldn’t be looking to ride his luck for long and let his bat do the talking. The third game will be a crucial one for Raina and one can expect the southpaw to come fighting as he has done it in the past.