The Return of Suresh Raina: Will India benefit?

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The Indian selection committee, who brought back veteran left-handed batsman Suresh Raina in the One-Day squad for India’s tour of England 2018 will be hoping their decision ends up in giving the results. Raina is a seasoned ODI player of 223 ODIs and 5568 runs under his belt and a lot will be upon him to make this rare chance count.
The senior left-hander came in as a replacement for Ambati Rayudu, who failed the yo-yo test recently.
One must feel for Ambati Rayudu, who had a dream Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 campaign, but him failing the fitness test worked well as far Raina is concerned. The southpaw trumped the likes of Manish Pandey and Rishabh Pant to make his way back to the ODI fold. It looks like the selectors worked the move in a well thought manner.
Raina is already part of the T20I side and his exposure in the conditions from the start, made the selectors go in for him. Will India benefit from Suresh Raina’s return to the Indian ODI squad?

Absence from the side

The problem for Raina back in 2015 was the mindset when he came into the crease. He was consistently thinking more about the shorter ball and his positioning told the story. When a bowler bowled the fuller ball, the initial trigger movement did not allow Raina to play according to the merit and he lost his wickets. Keeping the Aussie tour in mind in 2016, the selectors gave him the cull.
He had a terrible series against the Proteas at home prior to him getting the axe. He scored just a paltry 68 runs in five innings that had two successive noughts. He was dismissed in all sorts. Morne Morkel had him with the short ball, Imran Tahir got him play the wrong channel twice on the tour and Kagiso Rabada got him with the fuller ball. It was a Raina that looked short of answers to the problems.

New lease of life in ODIs

On December 22, 2015, Raina was axed from India’s ODI squad for the series against Australia. Two years and eight months later, the left-handed batsman has been handed a lifeline. It’s been quite a comeback of sorts for the southpaw, whose ODI career looked over. The selectors had the option of Manish Pandey, but choosing Raina makes more sense at the moment.
His form in the Indian Premier League 2018, played a key role. The mentality of the player is also positive, due to successive series wins in international level, followed by the title win by Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2018. The 31-year-old Raina has a lot to offer in limited-over cricket and the new lease of life could be the game changer for the player.
The competition is high in ODI cricket and with Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav unavailable for different reasons, this is the chance he needed. Raina is a handy bowler as well and in England his part-time spin (off-breaks) could play a crucial role. With Hardik Pandya being the possible fifth bowler, Kohli can look up to Raina for some overs.

What could he bring to the England tour?

Raina was already part of the T20I squad for both Ireland and England series and given that he will play at the crucial number three position, it was an easy decision for the selectors to rope him in. Raina will need to play with a much cooler head and provide the base India need in T20Is. The tour of South Africa and the Nidahas Trophy saw him chip in with runs, and that augured well for the senior player.
If one keeps the ODI series in mind, then a question arises whether Raina can make the cut in the starting XI. That’s where the T20Is play substance. Since his comeback in February 2018, Raina has scored 192 runs in eight matches. The conditions in England will be a challenge he will relish though.
Moreover, he brings an additional left-handed option for India in the middle-order. Raina’s experience will pay dividends especially with a leg-spinner most likely to feature during the middle overs. It will be interesting to see what position he could be brought in the 50-over format. With England in top class position in ODIs, India need clever ploy in the middle, and Raina’s availability brings solidity.

Previous outings in England

Raina played a bilateral ODI series in England last in 2014 in four ODIs and had slammed a ton. He had finished with 160 runs in four matches. In 2011, he had a commendable series after scoring 198 runs in five matches. In 2013, he played a solitary ICC Champions Trophy match on England soil as prior to that India played all their matches in Wales.
Raina in England – Matches 10, Runs 359, Best 100, Average 39.88, Wickets 4

 The road ahead for Raina

India have a three-match ODI series against Australia, starting January 12, 2019. So the England tour is vital for Raina, keeping the series against Australia in mind. In 2016, when India played the Aussies, Raina was dropped. Therefore he will be keen to have a go this time around. Australia aren’t in form in ODI cricket at the moment, and if Raina justifies his selection, he could be in for some handy runs.
Raina will be determined to work well in Australian pitches and a productive tour of England will give him the confidence to make it count Down Under. The mindset will serve as an interesting factor there.
If one keeps the short-term solution in mind, then the selectors are trying options they have at their disposal. The ICC World Cup 2019 is slated to be held in England and one may see a last hurrah for the southpaw, who was an integral part of the Indian cricket team in 2011 and 2015 editions.

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