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Dhoni counts on Raina to bloom

cricket Updated: Oct 23, 2010 23:58 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
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For someone who has played over a 100 ODIs, and a majority of those with some success, Suresh Raina gets talked about very little. Virat Kohli catches the eye with his emphatic strokeplay. Rohit Sharma was the next big hope from Mumbai before losing his way a bit. Robin Uthappa hammers the kind of sixes that fans can't stop chattering about.

But Raina? He's slipped under the radar a bit, even though he comes up with innings of stunning brutality often enough — the unbeaten 71 at Vizag being a case in point. While Raina has put his head down and scored the runs demanded of him, even beginning his Test career with a century, his exact place in the scheme of things hasn't been nailed down.

Without quite naming Raina, however, Mahendra Singh Dhoni offered a hint of what the future held.

“Batting at No. 5 or 6 you need a bit more experience to finish games. You need to take the team right through to the end,” explained Dhoni.

“I think maybe if somebody gets groomed and analyses the game really well and is able to bat at No. 5 and closes the game more often than not maybe I will try and go back to No. 3 before it gets too late for me,” the captain said.

Dhoni, putting the team first, has moved down the order, despite having a devastating record at No. 3. In 17 matches at No. 3, Dhoni has scored 993 runs at an average of 82.75 with two centuries and six half-centuries.

Perhaps, Raina is the man who can be groomed into a finisher, allowing Dhoni to return back up the order?

Dhoni certainly has plenty of appreciation for what Raina brings to the team.

“The important thing is the rate at which Raina is scoring runs. He has been like a floater for us. Normally, he bats at number 5 or 6 depending on the situation and more often than not he scores at a brisk rate,” said Dhoni.

“He is also a very good fielder, who can occasionally give you a run out apart from saving crucial runs. Also, he can bowl a bit.”

Raina is a fairly self-aware young player, and has adjusted to the demands of international cricket remarkably well, doing what is needed to succeed.

That Dhoni's return to his favourite spot in the batting order could hinge on how well Raina shapes up, is something even he may not be aware of.