Till Virat Kohli took his Twenty20 game to another level at the beginning of the year, Suresh Raina was considered the lynchpin of India’s batting in T20 internationals. As Kohli’s graph rose, the left-hander slipped in this period.
On Friday, Raina was the most notable name missing from the 14-member squad, 12 of whom are in the Caribbean for the Test series, which was announced by the Indian board for the two T20Is against world champions West Indies on August 27 and 28 in Florida.
The selectors have given Raina the responsibility of leading India Green in the Duleep Trophy from August 23.
While Raina didn’t have a consistent run with the India team, he did well in the Indian Premier League (IPL), which formed an important basis for selection of fresh faces for the short Zimbabwe tour in June.
If IPL performances carry merit, then Raina, who captained Gujarat Lions to the second qualifier, where they lost to eventual champions Sunrisers Hyderabad, deserved a place.
Raina’s non-selection does raise eyebrows. Raina, who led Uttar Pradesh to the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 title earlier this year, may have been out of form in the World T20 (41 runs in four innings), but he did well with his part-time bowling, claiming three wickets for 29 runs in five matches in the tournament.
He picked himself up in the IPL by becoming Gujarat Lions’ highest run-getter with 399 runs in 15 matches, which included three half-centuries.
Raina has been skipper MS Dhoni’s most trusted lieutenant, but his dropping from the one-day team and now the T20 squad is a curious case.
Former chairman of selectors Kiran More was surprised. “Raina can walk into the T20 team. He is a match winner; he’s a brilliant fielder and can also chip in with some spin bowling. Even if I have to close my eyes to pick a team, Raina would be a part of it,” he said.
“I don’t understand, Raina does not lack any skills. He is a proven performer and doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. Such instances can hurt players’ confidence,” said More.
Raina’s other WT20 teammates — Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Pawan Negi also don’t figure in the squad for the West Indies series. While Ashish Nehra is still recuperating from surgery for a knee injury sustained during the IPL, Hardik Pandya and Manish Pandey are on the India ‘A’ tour to Australia.
KL Rahul, who made his T20I debut in Zimbabwe, has been included for the WI series. Amit Mishra and Stuart Binny earned a recall to the shortest format.
Squad: MS Dhoni (capt), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Amit Mishra, Stuart Binny.