Shreyas Iyer could have been a handy batsman for India at 4 or 5…..
Suresh Raina’s inclusion in the Indian ODI team raised a few eyebrows. Before the England tour, he last played for India in 2015 and given the strength of this Indian team, one thought that his 50-over career is all but over. He was however handed a lifeline when Ambati Rayudu failed his fitness test and as a result, Raina was included. Did the fact that he did well in the 2014 series in England play a part? Perhaps. But India should not forget that they have enough depth and talent they could have looked beyond Raina in the XI. Shreyas Iyer, for example, could have been the apt choice.
India will surely have one eye on the World Cup and going by this someone like Shreyas should have gotten a hit in the ODI series. The Leeds ODI would have been the last opportunity to see Shreyas in action in England before the World Cup. With Manish Pandey not part of the squad and KL Rahul dropped from the third ODI, the Indian selectors have sent a mixed signal.
The good news is that most of the bench has been tested, but did the right players get a chance to play? Did players who are sure to make the World Cup squad get enough opportunities. In a three-match ODI series, chances for experimentation is very less. But one has to look at the bigger picture. Playing Raina for all three matches ahead of Shreyas or even ahead of Karthik, made little sense. The logic behind picking Raina was that he could also chip in with a few overs. He bowled 7 overs in the entire series and conceded runs at 6 an over, without picking up a single wicket. In other words, Raina bowled just 7 out of the 143-odd overs India bowled at England. That’s just about 5-percent of the total overs. Raina bowled at an average of little over 2 overs per match and was included in the XI in all the matches just for this? A little hard to believe.
There was nothing great to talk about his batting too. He scored 47 runs from two innings at an average of 23.50. At Leeds, Raina fell right into England’s trap and hit the ball to the leg slip fielder in the fourth ball he faced. This at a time India needed someone of his experience to build a solid partnership with MS Dhoni. But the 226 ODI veteran became the easiest of the England victims.
What India did right was to test out all their seamers, but did not give their batsmen a fair hit. Shreyas, a prolific scorer in the domestic circuit for Mumbai received his maiden India call-up as a cover for Virat Kohli in the Dharamsala Test against Australia last year. Although he did not make his debut in that match, he has gone on to play 6 ODIs and 6 T20Is for India. In his 5 ODI innings, he has recorded scores of 9, 88, 65, 18 and 30. Manish Pandey’s form had dropped in the limited-overs and was hence not considered in the series. However, Shreyas, who one thought is more or less assured of a place in the world Cup next year, did not get a single chance to prove his credentials.
Shreyas led India A in the List A matches in England ahead of the ODI series and managed just 162 runs at 23.14 from 7 innings. He would have acclimatised himself to the conditions by the start of the ODI series and could have been a handy batsman for India at 4 or 5. India perhaps decided to play it safe by picking Raina. He is an experienced campaigner with a decent record in England. No doubt it was not a good move, but this experimentation should stop now.
The Leeds ODI should be Raina’s last ODI match for India. However, if he fits in India’s scheme of things in the T20I side, keeping the World T20 2020 in mind, he might be given a chance. However, it might be the right time to step aside even in that format and let the more consistent lot takeover the mantle. Bringing back Yuvraj Singh in the 50-over format turned out to be a disaster. If India keep persisting with Raina, it could be a similar case with him too.
India have the Asia Cup in UAE and then the tour of Australia to get their combinations right ahead of the World Cup. India have been among the first teams who had started to prepare a core team for the World Cup for a long time. They surely would not want things to go haywire at the last hurdle.