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One-man army rescues India

He is still at that stage of his Test career where he has to prove himself at every step. Suresh Raina is still tons of runs away from cementing his place in the Indian side. But, importantly, the Uttar Pradesh batsman is showing the ambition and hunger that is needed to be successful at the highest level. Sanjjeev K Samyal reports.

cricket Updated: Jul 18, 2011 02:08 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal

He is still at that stage of his Test career where he has to prove himself at every step. Suresh Raina is still tons of runs away from cementing his place in the Indian side. But, importantly, the Uttar Pradesh batsman is showing the ambition and hunger that is needed to be successful at the highest level.

The left-handed batsman was the only bright spot for India in their three-day tour opener against Somerset County Club.

Raina’s dazzling, counterattacking innings on Sunday morning was the only period of play when the tourists enjoyed the upperhand. He used his strong, flexible wrists to devastating effect. He was almost unstoppable as, with supple wrist play, he shaped the direction in which he wanted to play, scoring in unusual areas of the wicket.

In scoring a thrilling unbeaten 103, Raina waded into India's wrecker-in-chief, 36-year-old South African Charl Willoughby. The left-arm pacer finished with six wickets but Raina toyed with him on the third morning. The India No. 6 plundered a total of five sixes off the Somerset bowlers, the best being the hit high over covers, on a bent knee off Willoughby.

Now, after the brilliant play, the No 6 spot is Raina's to lose in the series. It was a spot which should have been his for a long time now.

TOO AGGRESSIVE

He had started brightly by making a century on debut in Sri Lanka in 2010 but after a series of failures, against New Zealand and in South Africa, he lost his place in the playing eleven. Time and again he paid the price for being over attacking.

He had come into the Test team on the basis of his strong one-day showing and it was obvious he was struggling to isolate the mindset of his limited overs game from Test cricket.

The shock treatment of losing his place has had the desired effect as he has returned more mature. Since he made his comeback in the West Indies, most impressive has been his ability to pace his innings according the situation. An example of it was seen against Somerset too. He was restrained while batting with the specialists, but cut loose when he had tailenders for company.

He is showing the ability to handle the pressure situations well and is shaping up as an ideal foil for VVS Laxman, who has been bailing India out from hopeless situations for many years now. Laxman is a master at batting with the tail and Raina too has done a similar job effectively a few times recently.

In this game, from 140 for nine, he powered the favourites to a face-saving 224. However, his methodology is quite different from that of his senior pro. Laxman believes in giving confidence to the tail and make them share responsibility. Raina is like a one-man army. In the 84-run partnership on Sunday morning, last-man Munaf Patel's contribution was six.