The word ‘responsibility’ sits well with Suresh Raina these days. Be it batting at the pivotal No 5 slot for India and then slipping in those crucial overs in the mid-innings, or not leaving his ageing parents alone by giving up the idea of living separately.
It is this ability to handle responsibilities well that forces MS Dhoni to keep Raina at No 5 even though the UP batsman has flattered to deceive quite often, and even after all these years not taken the giant leap from limited overs to Test cricket. His technique against the short ball is still iffy.
The No 5 slot can test a batsman when it comes to the pace of the innings – early loss of wickets means you have to build the innings or else you are forced to cut loose after a platform has been set up.
Back in the side after losing his place, Raina cemented his spot in the ODI series to become a pivotal player for India as they gear up for the World Cup early next year. While Dhoni has been trying to solve one riddle after the other – one player or the other keeps failing, Raina’s commitment in every facet here has been a welcome respite.
When reporters were asked about the man of the series in Leeds on Friday, the choice was unanimous. Raina has had that kind of effect. A century, a 42, four wickets in economical spells and a lively show on the field that saw him grab an outstanding catch and effect a brilliant run out. He was Dhoni’s man in the controversial leg-slip position, pulling off a crucial catch to get rid of Eoin Morgan in the ODI here earlier.
One of the reasons for his success, Raina mentioned the other day, was his time away from cricket after he was dropped. That helped him to introspect. With cricket round the clock, it is easy to find players getting into comfort zones and forgetting about introspection. It is probably happening to players like Virat Kohli.
“I analysed a lot after I was dropped. I was getting good starts but was failing to convert them,” said Raina.
Pep talk from former players, including Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, helped a bit. “The hunger inside grew.” It was evident on the field as he tried to contribute in all aspects.
Dhoni feels that Raina’s best bet is No 5. “He scores at a very quick pace and plays authentic cricketing shots,” felt the captain.
However, the bigger test will be on the upcoming tours and Dhoni hopes his trusted man will be in form when the World Cup arrives.