Almost every year, the IPL is followed by an important tournament or series, and it is no different this time around, what with India travelling to England in late June for a five-Test series. Prior to that is a three-ODI series in Bangladesh, so in many ways, the IPL becomes almost a selection tournament to gain a toehold in the national side.
Once again, the IPL has provided the platform from which many people have caught the eye of the selectors. Men that have been out of favour for a while, like Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa, have all made a comeback on the back of excellent performances in the IPL, while those with ambitions and aspirations as Kedar Jadhav and Akshar Patel have broken through into the one-day set-up.
These are all players who have also done quite well in domestic cricket, but the timing of their performances in IPL, in front of big audiences, has played a huge part in their selections.
Consistent in IPL
Raina is easily the most consistent batsman in IPL history. As is typical of the Indian style of judgement, the general opinion is that Raina is a good batsman, but... This ‘but’ is something we in India in particular tend to use even while lauding an individual. Questions have been raised about Raina’s level of comfort against short-pitched bowling and his lack of consistency, while playing abroad. All I can say is that no batsman would like to take on quality short stuff, and Raina is no exception.
While it is true that playing on pitches overseas is a huge challenge, you need a certain skill-set to succeed on Indian pitches too. You need a different style to make runs consistently in India, though the pitch at the Brabourne Stadium wasn’t quite the typical Indian track. It had bounce, it helped the spinners and there was some bite. I thought Raina batted quite beautifully.
His inside-out drive over long-off off Harbhajan was an exceptional shot. You need class to play a stroke like that --- the back lift, the swing of the bat, the balance as he completed the stroke, they all suggest that there is something extra in him as a batsman. Raina plays shots all round the park, and he is capable of manoeuvring the ball 360 degrees. The calmness and the aggression with which he took CSK to the target suggest maturity and supreme focus.
It’s nice to see Raina back in the Indian team and the fact that he has been made the captain for the Bangladesh tour means the selectors have shown confidence in him. When someone is in good form and performing with consistency, people around him who matter must ask him to change gears. The easiest thing is to play within your comfort zone. Raina must believe that he can stake a claim to return to Test cricket, and that he can show the same mettle in that format too.
The writer is a former India pacer