This article takes an in-depth look at whether Suresh Raina’s omission from the Indian ODI squad for the five ODIs against Australia in January 2016, is justified.
The all-India senior selection committee headed by Sandip Patil announced last Saturday, the Indian One-Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 International (T20I) squads for next month’s tour of Australia. MS Dhoni and co. will play the ODI world champions in a five-ODI and three-T20I series in their own backyard, before the sixth edition of the ICC World Twenty20 takes place in India in March 2016.
There have been some major changes in personnel to the Indian side who lost both the ODI and T20I home series to South Africa back in October. Barring a couple of good individual performances, the Men in Blue were found wanting as a unit against the Proteas. And, as a result, the ODI side for the tour of Australia has as many as seven changes, with Suresh Raina’s omission being the high-profile one.
On a positive note, Rishi Dhawan and Barinder Sran, who are only in their mid-twenties, have got their maiden call-ups to the national one-day side, after some good performances in domestic cricket. The Indian side for the T20 series has probably been picked with one eye on the World T20 2016 (WT20 2016), and the old warhorses in Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra have made a comeback to the national side after 18 months and more than 4 years, respectively.
Focusing on Raina’s omission from the ODIs alone, however, how justified a decision is it?
Raina’s exclusion – deserved or undeserved?
Raina had a poor ODI series with the bat against South Africa. However, he was not the only batsman in the Indian side who did not fare well. Shikhar Dhawan notched up just a single half-century throughout the Freedom Trophy against the Proteas. And even Virat Kohli struggled for the most part. One of the reasons for India’s 2-3 series loss was the collective failure of the batting lineup.
A couple of individuals stood out with the bat in each game, but India needed something substantial. And there was not a batsman to provide them that solidity and reliability. By dropping Raina and sticking with an even bigger under-performer in Dhawan, the Indian selectors have not sent out the right message. That is what will frustrate Raina more than actually getting dropped because of a string of failures. Also, the series against South Africa was just the second one Raina played in following what was a good world cup with the bat for him.
From Raina’s perspective, though, runs have dried up since scoring that match-winning century (110*) against Zimbabwe in the group stages of the 50-over world cup. He has since scored just one half-century in 8 innings, during which he also has come up with a few 30s and 40s. However, with Raina, one should give him the benefit of the doubt since he bats lower down the order and is never assured of a batting position.
On that note, read:
In the series against South Africa, the southpaw from UP batted at No. 6 thrice and No.5 twice. At No. 6, where he batted in the first three ODIs, his scores were 3, 0 and 0. He fared slightly better when promoted to No. 5, where he scored a 53 and 12 in the last couple of ODIs. That is another reason why this decision to drop Raina from the upcoming ODIs against Australia, feels slightly harsh. In the first three ODIs against the Proteas, Raina walked into bat when India were under the pump. They were involved in big run chases twice, with the asking rate well in excess of eight runs-per-over when the left-hander walked in.
However, in the Rajkot ODI, the third of the ODI series against the Proteas, Raina played a totally outrageous shot to get out, having faced just a delivery before. He lasted only a couple of balls, and his dismissal set India back in their pursuit of South Africa’s 271. Yes, the situations he walked into bat were not ideal for him to take his time and build an innings, but Raina, as one of the senior batsmen in the side, should have shown patience and more maturity. The nature of his dismissals during the series against South Africa has probably what contributed massively to Raina being dropped for the ODI series against Australia.
If I was part of the selection committee, I would have stuck with Raina for one more series. He scored close to 300 runs – 284, to be precise – at an average of 56.80 in the world cup and was the third highest run-getter for India. In the first ODI series India played in following their world cup campaign, against Bangladesh, Raina did not do badly, garnering 112 runs in a 3-match series.
He has had a few technical issues too, especially with the short ball, but Raina’s experience and athleticism on the field have been assets to the Indian side. Can Manish Pandey deliver the goods, having replaced Raina in the Indian one-day squad for the tour of Australia? We can only hope. It also depends on which position he gets to bat at, with Dhoni quite keen to bat at No. 4 of late.