Suresh Raina has become an enigma of sorts. The Oval crowd would have found it difficult to believe that he is India’s dangerman in one-dayers. Their impression of the left-hander is of one who earned a pair in the Test played here.
Though tentative against Anderson & Co in the Tests; he was driving, pulling and punching them with confidence, once in coloured clothing. The third ODI was the only knock which was not an impact innings. Before this, he had amassed 111 runs from 67 balls (33 in the T20, 38 in the first ODI at Chester-le-Street and a 19-ball 40 at Rose Bowl). The needs and challenges of the two formats can be different. Raina’s natural instinct is to attack the ball, and it could be the result of being exposed to the limited-overs format for too long before he got his Test break. He had played 98 ODIs, starting 2005, before he made his Test debut in 2010.
Playing the death overs is the most challenging part of the shorter formats, and Raina has mastered the art. The best example was the quarterfinals at the 2011 World Cup when he produced a 28-ball unbeaten 34 to knock out Australia.
He is smart at picking up the angles and has the ability to clear the in-field. The midwicket is his favourite area and the slogsweep the best in the business — clearing the front leg and hitting clean over mid-wicket, generating power with the high backlift and flourishing follow-through.
Raina’s numbers are proof enough. His one-day average (35.03) is more than his Test average (29.58), which is less than his T20 average (32).
It’s in contrast to most of the established India batsmen. Tendulkar (Tests: 56.25; ODIs: 45.16), Dravid (Tests: 53; ODIs: 39.26), Ganguly (Tests: 42.17; ODIs: 41.02), Sehwag (Tests: 52.26; ODIs: 35.11; T20s: 24.07), Laxman (Tests: 46.26; ODIs: 30.76) and Gambhir (Tests: 48.34; ODIs: 40.73; T20: 28.22).
However, he has similarities with Yuvraj, the player he replaced on his Test debut. Yuvraj averages 35.60 in Tests and 37.62 in ODIs. Yuvraj too had a long gap between his ODI & Test debut.
For Raina, it could be too late to adjust to Test cricket. Indian cricket may be better served to let him channel his energy to bring more laurels in one-day cricket, and look for other options in Tests.