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Skipper gains but the batsman loses

cricket Updated: Jun 18, 2011 02:36 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times
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For someone who was entrusted the captaincy of the limited-over side as the third choice due to the absence of skipper MS Dhoni and other senior players, Suresh Raina should be a happy man after sealing the ODI series and the Twenty20 tie in the West Indies.

But the 24-year-old, credited with good leadership qualities and willingness to take inputs from a new coach as well as teammates, was under pressure after failing to stake claim for a middle-order batting spot for the first Test starting in the Sabina Park on Monday.

As India sealed the series 3-0 before losing heavily in the final two games to give the beleaguered home team confidence going into the three-Test series, Raina was left looking at his own poor scores.

For someone who made his mark as a one-day finisher in 2006, in the home series against an England side coached by Duncan Fletcher who is now with India, it must be a strange feeling.

Rash shots to blame
While top-order bat Virat Kohli made a fine 94 on Thursday to push his case for Test debut in a batting line-up missing Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh, both Raina and the experienced S Badrinath flopped, especially against pace.

The left-hander admitted rash shots cost his wicket in the final two games but they raise worries about his focus while taking on the responsibility of leading the side.

“I was in a bit of a rush,” he admitted after the defeat in Kingston.

“I was not spending much time in the middle, but probably a couple of sessions before the Test match will make me feel right before the first Test. My game is very positive, I will learn from those mistakes.”

Although the arrival of skipper MS Dhoni along with senior batsmen Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman will have a calming influence, Raina has had problems against the short ball that saw him being dropped after failing in the first Test against South Africa in Centurion last December.

The West Indies pacemen are already looking to hit Indian batsmen with the short stuff on a bouncy Sabina Park pitch.

Words of comfort
Fletcher defended Raina, though. “Sometimes as captain your mind can wander from your game to that of the team. Sometimes it comes to your advantage and helps your game. You tend to go through a dry patch and sometimes you go and get runs. Sometimes your shots come off and you put together an innings that is match-winning.”

For a batsman who began his eight-Test career with a century on debut in Sri Lanka, it will take a lot to regroup against a weak but suddenly confident West Indies.