When I hear the name Suresh Raina, quite a few memories instantly flash on my mind. I can see a Raina who played an important knock in the India vs Australia Quarter-Final during the 2011 World; I can see a Raina who made an extremely important 36 against Pakistan in that famous semi-final; I can spot a nineteen year old Raina who made a tremendous 81 against England. And then a Raina who made an astonishing 101 against South Africa during the World T20 at West Indies in 2010. There are too many memories. Yet, the most striking, and the most incredible memory is that of a knock Suresh Raina played in the IPL 2014, pulverising the Punjab bowling attack into submission; a stunning 87 off 25 balls while chasing 227. When none of the other Chennai batsmen could get going, Raina looked like he was batting in a trance, on a different planet where time slowed down. 228 seemed like an absurdly simple target. Nothing seemed to bother the southpaw from Uttar Pradesh, and he never looked like getting out. Only a run-out could have ended the movie-like epic, and that’s exactly what happened. Raina was run-out and then, the CSK couldn’t capitalise on the start, eventually losing by 24 runs.
This Raina epic is evidence enough of the southpaw’s hard-hitting capabilities. With Raina in great nick, the ball sort of shrills past fielders to get past the forbidden boundaries. An extravagantly talented batsman, Raina’s handy off-spin has been used on quite a few occasions, mostly by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has always held, like many senior India cricketers, him in a high regard, in spite of his glaring weakness against the short-pitched delivery. Suresh Raina has architected the national team’s victory in limited-overs cricket quite a few times. He has been an astute finisher.
Another of Raina’s memories is the way he delightfully runs towards the bowlers after a wicket, almost as if to ingratiate him. Along with his tremendous batting abilities and more than handy off-spin, Raina’s presence in field is electrifying.
It’s almost a pity to see Raina so quickly forlorn into oblivion. His last appearance for India was during the T20 World Cup in 2016. It was just a year back. But like he slowed down time during that epic 87 against CSK, it seems like time has slowed down again for the south-paw and it feels like he has been out of the national squad for years. The masses seem to have already given up on him. To make matters worse, an anonymous coach from Uttar Pradesh recently came out with preposterous comments, saying Raina has become a reluctant Cricketer after his marriage, and has ignored and skipped his practice sessions. The southpaw had to come out to clarify that he had been busy with his ailing daughter, and then was busy treating his own illness. “If I don’t get things done at home, who will?” were his words in a recent interview.
While I completely understand Raina’s stand and condemn what that anonymous coach from UP said, I must also say that the IPL 10 has become extremely paramount for Raina, and for us as well. Raina is just 30 and has at least four years of Cricket left in him. He is too good a talent to be forgotten the way he is being forgotten. A flurry of outstanding performances will quickly put Raina back on the map, and on the road to his return to the National side. Raina’s batting, fortunately, has the ability to bewitch the spectators and that will work heavily in his favour. The Gujarat Lions are off to a horrendous start, but Raina just seemed to be getting back into the groove after he scored a 50 in their first game. The lack of Cricket or match-practice were showing, but there were flashes of his past brilliance too. It’s in the best interest of Indian Cricket that Raina has a great IPL, at least with the bat, if not as a Captain, because his services to India in limited overs Cricket are extremely important. And Raina has always loved the IPL!!!