India are contemplating a possible swap in the middle-order and it is Rohit Sharma who could lose his place to Suresh Raina in the third Test starting at the MCG on Friday.
Interestingly, lack of opportunity in Test cricket is the biggest concern for Raina as he has not played a Test since September 2012. But Ravi Shastri, the team director, had optimistically said before the start of the tour that he would like to see Raina as an established Test batsman, taking his One-day and T20 form into the longer format. Now, this could only have become possible at the cost of Sharma, whose terrible form with the bat has increased the worries of the team management.
The management might just go ahead and replace Sharma with Raina with just a stroke of the pen, but they would do well to remember that both players have had their share of problems in their Test careers.
For one, Raina cannot be said to be a perfect replacement for Sharma in Melbourne. His failure is written in detail against a packed off-side field, and to add to it, he has failed to get on top of the bouncers. And, getting oneself airborne to keep the ball down may not be the best technique to flourish in Australia. But, there is room for improvement and Raina is due for another shot at self-correction.
It was none other than Sachin Tendulkar who validated Raina’s Test credentials, when he made his Test debut in Colombo and scored a century against Sri Lanka in 2010. His debut was the result of Yuvraj Singh coming down with dengue. Yuvraj should have made a comeback after recovery given that there was a rule made by Anil Kumble that anybody honest enough to declare his injury should get his place in the team once he is fit, even though his replacement has performed exceptionally well. But the rule was bent to keep Yuvraj out even though he was fit for the third Test at the P Sara Stadium. Dhoni had then praised Raina’s ton and said rules “at times are not permanent”.
Soon, Sourav Ganguly’s exit created a slot and Raina, who scored a couple of half centuries as well, assured himself of a ‘permanent’ India berth. But a string of poor scores dented his average and chances till the tour of West Indies in 2011, where he redeemed himself.
It seemed all was well again until he met Graeme Swann in England. Word had gone around that Raina was vulnerable to short-pitched deliveries and could be the prime target of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan. Hardly would he have envisioned that Swann would jeopardise his Test future. Raina, since then, has missed many a bus leaving for Test series abroad.