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Ten thousand is less than hundred!

Queer maths, but pure cricketing logic as Raina emerges another challenger to Sourav, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 18:21 IST
Atul Sondhi
Atul Sondhi

Soon after a thumping 3-1 winning lead in the ODI series, Indian Skipper Rahul Dravid was all praise for his youngsters for seeing the team through.

While a competent performance was expected from the likes of Yuvraj, Dhoni and Irfan, one player who showed his class in his only knock in the present series was Suresh Raina.

His recent performances will be weighing heavily on the mind of the selectors whenever they will set out to chose future ODI teams.

Measure of a Man

Should Raina be measured by the number of runs he has scored so far? Certainly not. In terms of sheer numbers, he is not a patch on the former Indian captain.

Comparative career
 Sourav GangulySuresh Raina

However, it is the three innings that he has played in last few months, which will go on to show that Raina has the temperament and the character to become another of India's floaters, who can be played at any position.

And eventually, irrevocably replace the likes of brilliant, but ageing, Gangulys and Laxmans

Pune's performer

In November 2005, India was on fire at home against Lanka with a 3-0 lead in the seven ODI series.

After Sri Lanka had managed 261 in the fourth ODI at Pune, a respectable but manageable total, everyone expected the strong Indian batting line-up to simply cruise through.

But then came Murali and showed his class. His splendid three wicket haul, which included Sehwag (48 runs), threatened to rob India of a much-deserved victory.

The home side was82 runs in arrears when Raina joined Dhoni. The last recognised paircarted the Sri Lanka attack to all parts of the ground with Raina finishing with 39 unbeaten runs at more thanrun-a-ball.

The newcomernot only rotated the strike effectively, but even outpaced Dhoni stroke by stroke. It was Raina's only fourth match in international cricket.

Magnificent at Multan

In a high-voltage contest between India and Pakistan, even 300 is not a safe score. But, ironically,even 161 can be very safe in a crunch tie.

If Indians believe that at Peshawar, they could have taken Pakistan's last three wickets for less than 18 runs, thenPakistanis can also be forgiven for thinking that they could have taken last five Indian wickets for less than 28 runs at Multan to level the series.

That's why Raina's 35 unbeaten runs off just 34 balls become so invaluable.

Incidentally, at both Pune and Multan, Raina did not wait for others to finish the job.

And, hold your breadth,was not outpaced by Dhoni!

No top order blues

Raina shares a unique record with Sachin Tendulkar. Both scored ducks in their first ODI in international cricket!

So, the young man must have been very tentative when sent as number three batsman in his very second match of the Indian Oil Cup against the West Indies.

But his nervousness does not find reflection in figures. Raina ended up with a respectable 35 as India went on to win the match.

So, this live-wire player is a useful floater, and splendid fielder who does merit a place on immediate form. Even ahead of the former Indian captain.

Settled look without Sourav

The India batting has a very settled look without the presence of Sourav Ganguly.

Of the six batsmen likely to play, four select themselves.Sehwag, Sachin, Dravid and Yuvraj are the guaranteed inclusions.

The fight for the remaining two slots boils down to Kaif, Raina and Gambhir, all fast movers between the wickets, and on field, unlike Sourav.

With relationship between Chappell and Ganguly only slightly more cordial than the one between Murali and the Australian crowd, it will be extremely surprising if Raina is not seriously considered in the future.

This could also formally seal the fate of Sourav Ganguly, whose last match was the Videocon Tri-series final against New Zealand in Zimababwe, which India lost.

Sourav had scored 31 in the final, his highest in the series where he averaged little above 15!

India without the 'God of off-side'

Of late India have performed very well without Sourav. If all the runs scored in the past could win future matches, then Ganguly's absence should have been a telling blow to the Indian chances.

If India's performance was dismal in the Indian Oil Cup, where they lost the final to Sri Lanka, and Videocon tri-series even with the guiding hand of Sourav, they should have fared worse in the absence of the "God of off-side", a phrase coined in late nineties by Dravid himself for the Kolkattan.

But that was not to be. Without Ganguly in the Indian side, Greg Chappell's team has won11 out of 15 completed ODIs in last four months.

India without Sourav in last three series
 WinLostWin percentage
Sri Lanka in India6186
South Africa in India2250
India in Pakistan3275

This 73 per cent success rate is something India will take on any given day.

And since this success rate has materialised with the likes of Yuvraj, Irfan, RP, Dhoni and Raina, it will be tragic iffuture paves the way for, even if, proven performers of the past.

First Published: Feb 19, 2006 14:20 IST