The Grey clouds of Napier and the downright black ones in Lahore blocked the light out on an innings that would otherwise have got plenty of recognition.
But that has been the story of Suresh Raina’s career so far. Initially, when Greg Chappell backed him to the hilt, the public did not embrace Raina, perhaps believing this young batsman was just the latest in the line of Chappell’s fancy experiments. The runs did not come despite the obvious talent and skill, and Raina slipped back into domestic cricket.
Perhaps this was the best thing to happen to him, for Raina already had exposure to the Indian team’s training methods, and this was backed by a hunger to score and a clearer understanding of his own game. Just a year ago, Raina’s career hung in balance with about everyone tiring of hearing of the potential and wanting to see results instead.
The turning point came in the Asia Cup when Raina, in Sachin Tendulkar’s absence, scored back-to-back hundreds and grabbed the chance with both hands. Tuesday’s half-century could be yet another watershed in his career.
This Indian team does not ascribe set roles to each batsmen. Batting positions vary, the demands on each player are different from game to game and most of all, there is little tolerance for senseless play. Situational awareness is at an all-time high in this line-up and Raina has shown that he can either shore up the innings or go on the attack, at will.
“Raina was brilliant,” Dhoni said soon after the match. “He came in at a time that was tricky for him — whether to look for the big shots, or get himself in. The match was evenly poised. He went by instinct, and that’s good. He could have got out and it could have looked really ugly, but we want individuals to play their natural game.
He targeted the bowlers and his areas well. You can try and change your game according to the needs of the team and according to the situation, but more often than not, you should be playing your natural game.”
Raina has been one of the less noticeable members of this Indian team.
Almost without ado he has cemented his place in a line-up of explosive batsmen and in this series he has shown he can hit the ball as long or hard as anyone. What remains to be seen is whether he can match the best for consistency. If he does, a Test spot will open up for him in good time.