In the preview to the one-day series, it was detailed why the series against England is going to be so important for Suresh Raina. He had been struggling a lot in the games prior to the England ODIs, and his place was definitely under threat going into the series. Raina’s woes against the short ball were well documented, and the Englishmen were obviously going to target him during the second ODI at Cardiff. They did, but the left-hander brought his experience into play, and ensured he came up with a fine knock, which reiterated his status as a dangerous one-day player.
Things would have been extremely tough for Raina early on in his innings, mentally and technique wise as well. However, he handled the situation very maturely. As expected, the short balls were directed at him, but he was successful in keeping them at bay for a change. The southpaw did not go for the extravagant strokes against the rising deliveries, and was rewarded suitably. Remember, in one-dayers, bowlers are only allowed a couple of short balls, and batsmen can take advantage of the rules. So far, Raina hadn’t failed to capitalise on the same, but at Cardiff, he showed definite improvements in this aspect.
When you are out of form, you definitely need some strokes of luck. Virat Kohli did not get it as he tried to hit his way out of trouble. But, Raina definitely had some, and to his credit, he utilised the same. A couple of balls were delivered in his strength areas around the legs, and Raina lofted them over the top. Importantly, the balls flew off the middle of the bat, not expected from someone out of form. But, once that happened, Raina seemed in the zone. His confidence only grew with every ball he timed.
Significantly, Raina’s knock came with India under pressure. After a rearguard action, they had lost wickets in quick succession. At that stage it seemed, India would again collapse, like they had done so often in the Tests. But, Raina wasn’t part of the side that tasted embarrassing defeats in England in the last three Tests. The experience of not having any scars going into the match definitely helped his cause. Following the troubles India had in the five-day games, India were desperate for some fresh legs and positive thinking, and Raina definitely delivered on that aspect.
Another box that Raina ticked during the wonderful hundred at Cardiff was that, unlike in many of the previous games, he did not give his wicket away after getting a start. Having lost their way in the middle, India needed an experienced hand to guide them. And, Raina stood up to the task. Impressively, he was successful in finding the boundaries at will even as India were rebuilding their innings. When in form, Raina is adept at finding the gaps, and this feature of his was evident in abundance on Wednesday. The attacking approach may be fraught with danger. But, it is also when Raina is at his best.
--By A Cricket Analyst