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India vs Australia: Raina's omission puts utility in doubt

Suresh Raina's role is that of a middle-order batsman and he has been picked in the Test squad as one. However, opener KL Rahul was selected ahead of him as a replacement for Rohit Sharma in the third Test.

cricket Updated: Dec 27, 2014 04:47 IST
Sai Prasad Mohapatra
Sai Prasad Mohapatra
Hindustan Times

Suresh Raina's role is pretty much that of a middle-order batsman and he has been picked in the Test squad as one. Presumably, kept as a cover for Rohit Sharma in case the former failed, Raina was tipped to replace him.

The situation didn't warrant a kneejerk reaction and include KL Rahul as a possible middle-order bat when he's effectively an opener. One is not sure if it is skipper MS Dhoni's lack of faith in Raina's abilities in Test cricket or a ploy to surprise Australia with an unknown quantity.

Historically, India have paid the price for shifting specialists from their specified roles in the interest of the team. The instances are many. A middle-order bat, VVS Laxman was asked to open while Rahul Dravid too functioned as an opener from being a No. 1 bat. Cheteshwar Pujara has opened the batting and so has Irfan Pathan, who normally comes in lower down the order. All these experiments, the players confessed, led them to lose sight of their roles, and it was only after they returned to their original positions that they excelled again.

Not just a study tour

Rahul, who must have been resigned to the fact that this was nothing more than a study tour, couldn't have imagined that Boxing Day would be his D-Day. The activity around him for the past three days only strengthened the belief that he might get a look in - extensive batting practice, close-in catching and Ravi Shastri and Duncan Fletcher spending a fair bit of time with him. The youngster cannot complain nor demand a batting spot of his choice. For him, it's a dream come true.

Whichever way his debut goes, he would be judged less harshly as his batting position is not his choice but the team's. It can be expected that the youngster will defend that with a "wherever my team wants me to bat, I am willing to play at that position". But that will not absolve the decision makers of making that choice.

Raina has been handed out a Grade 'A' contract, and Shastri was determined to revive his Test career. If after nine years of international cricket, Raina, the most experienced amongst the ones sitting in the dugout, is losing out to a rank newcomer, questions arise on his role and when the next opportunity will come.

If it is clear to the team management that Raina is prone to failures in Tests, it's up to the selectors to decide on the third choice after Rohit and Raina.

If Rahul does well, no one might see the fallibility of this decision, and if he fails, he surely will get sympathy for his sacrifice.

First Published: Dec 27, 2014 04:27 IST