India in Bangladesh 2014 June 13, 2014

Time for Raina to harvest his ODI knowledge

The lower profile of the India-Bangladesh series does not dilute the challenges ahead of Suresh Raina - trying to balance the demands of captaincy while reviving his ODI form

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Dhaka's bustle is loud, vibrant and distracting. The city refuses to quieten down even on holiday but there is a semblance of calm inside the Shere Bangla Stadium. And even here, there isn't much evidence that a one-day series between Bangladesh and India is on the horizon. Football has usurped the viewership.

Every second bus pits Lionel Messi against Neymar, electronics shops proclaim World Cup-themed discounts and tea shops host animated arguments over which team will emerge the last one standing in Rio. The streets are awash with Brazil and Argentina flags, some as large as 15 feet across.

Suresh Raina might well wonder about the visibility he could gain in his third stint as India captain. Interest among broadcasters has also been low, so much so that the series might not be on television in India. Perhaps the low profile might help him tackle the challenges ahead: a national comeback, as captain, in a three-match series where one off-day could trigger the walls to close in.

India, however, are favourites. The hosts' potential cannot be discounted, but recent history paints them in unflattering light. Since their 3-0 humiliation of New Zealand in 2013, Bangladesh's only victories in any format have come against Afghanistan and Nepal in the World T20. In the last six months, their captain has questioned the commitment of his men, the side has been strapped with new team management and a battle against corruption is also visible on the periphery. So a series win - should it transpire - might not fetch as many gold stars for Raina. On the other hand, defeat could cripple his portfolio. The classic lose-lose situation.

For the third-time running, Raina has been tasked to lead a depleted India side. Eight first-choice picks have been rested to gauge the pool available for the 2015 World Cup. One-fifth of the squad is uncapped - Kedar Jadhav, Akshar Patel and Parvez Rasool. Manoj Tiwary and international cricket will exchange pleasantries after two years' silence. Cheteshwar Pujara has largely been untested in limited-overs surrounds. And the bowling has the potential to tempt another Indian captain to say he believed they could concede 10 runs an over. Everything from the batting order to team strategy will need a rehash.

Raina has welcomed his responsibility as an honour. He has been part of a sound set-up for a good chunk of his ODI career and this series demands he harvest the knowledge gained. He will need to find a Virat Kohli among his batsmen to set up the game. Then he will need to find someone to fill in for MS Dhoni and finish the game. He need not look further than himself to bridge both roles at No.4. Raina has documented a thirst to bat up the order and display his skills at constructing an Indian victory. It is a desire that strikes every batsman dubbed a T20 specialist. His promise persuaded the team management to groom him as a replacement for Yuvraj Singh last year, but the venture failed.

Raina was cast aside for the Asia Cup. A run of 24 innings with only one half-century meant the weakness against short-pitched bowling had crept into his one-day performance. His bustle was gone, his footwork was nervous and his mind cluttered. The situation had become so dire that Raina was struck with misgivings about his future. But rejuvenating talks with former India captain Sourav Ganguly quelled the negativity. A typically savvy run in the IPL, culminating in a standout innings in the second qualifier would have ushered his confidence to the other end of the spectrum.

"He can develop into a good captain in the future," Duncan Fletcher had said during India's tour of West Indies in 2011. Raina lent weight to the assessment by guiding a young squad to triumph in the one-off T20 and the ensuing ODI series. It was a welcome balm against reminders of his debut as India captain - two crippling losses to Zimbabwe in 2010 and an early exit in a triangular one-day series.

A happy time at the helm did not flow into his batting against West Indies, though. His strokeplay had bordered on rash, limiting his impact to 82 runs in five matches. Fletcher had touched on the difficulties of juggling captaincy along with the process of establishing oneself as a player. "As a young player you are trying to develop your game and trying to establish your game but at the same time you are looking after 10 to 14 other youngsters," Fletcher said.

Unlike those two series, this squad, while fresh, has an average age of 27, the same as Raina's, which means the time spent cracking the domestic circuit would come in more than handy. The rest will also know the stakes. There are holes in the middle order that need to be filled before the 50-over World Cup. Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu and Raina himself will hope to use this series to stake their respective cases. The make-up of the fast-bowling attack is still in its experimental stages, which would invite Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma and Vinay Kumar to put their best foot forward.

There is much to play for and Raina will hope his bowlers seek victims with the fierce gusto of the street vendors in Dhaka, his batsmen channel the city's perennial activity while at the crease and, on the whole, spread some cricket fever as well.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Yogarajan on June 15, 2014, 6:48 GMT

    I Completely agree to #GRVJPR, what ever said is 100 % true. And It would be good if Everyone to look 4 years back,After Dravid era, It was Raina coming in at no 3 and was playing well, Its because of virat's entry Raina has to bat at no 5 as Yuvi is already at no 4. When people say that only 1 half century in 30 odd innings, you need to look at 1. Chasing or Seting Target, 2. If Chasing how many runs left to chase with Required RR, 3. If Batting How many overs left. Also need to look at If some other Indian Batsmen(apart from MSD) have the capacity to bat under pressure and right from the 1st ball with any RR and also with same consistency. Finally Short Balls, Every batsmen who tries to hit the short ball fails some times but Why only Raina? That too afterall people have watched him hit many sixes in short ball than getting out.For Instance Let Raina and Virat Exchange their places in batting order for couple of series, Then we can easily come to know who fails in consistency

  • Android on June 14, 2014, 21:53 GMT

    I think raina is the best future captain of indian team and become a good hitters in the world he should be come no3

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2014, 16:40 GMT

    Raina should bat at 3/4 & prove to the world what he is made of

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2014, 8:33 GMT

    Tigers !!!.... wash them .. wash them affixing a "Bangla Wash"

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2014, 7:56 GMT

    Uttappa, Rahane, Pujara, Tiwary, Raina, Jadhav, Patel, Mishra, Vinay, Mohit, Umesh

  • James on June 14, 2014, 5:40 GMT

    I would have preferred Raina and Tiwari play with the A team against the short pitched bowling- in Australia. In which case they might have something to prove with their experiences. It would also have benefited Rahane and Rayudu to get some experience in Australia. Giving experience to someone like Akshar Patel in Bangladesh is a good idea because BD batsmen play left arm spin quite well. Binny is a waste of space in Bangladesh. However, of the remaining Raina, Uthappa, Rahane, Pujara, Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Wriddhiman Saha , and Amit Mishra are good enough to be in the national team. That leaves only three other experimental inclusions, of which Parvez Rasool, or Akshar Patel could add some excitement to the game, and others like Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Stuart Binny, Mohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary have all performed well at the national level and would be a handful on Bangladesh tracks. BD would have to play really well to win this one.

  • Pravin on June 14, 2014, 4:16 GMT

    i think Raina should have been picked as captain for India A squad to Australia. this would have given him more time to settle as captain and as a player ahead of England ODI's. With Virat being only alternative it is imperative to nurture others into captaincy role. having two captains for A tour is ridiculous and doesnt help the captain to grow. About Raina, I hope after Bangladesh tour he doesn't sit idle at home and waste his form. county stint would be better.

  • Tanmay on June 14, 2014, 3:52 GMT

    @GRVJPR - mate the World Cup will be played on bouncy & fast wickets in Australia & New Suresh Raina's skill against spin bowling wont be of any use...also with Dohni preferring to go with no hopers Jadeja & Ashwin at 7 & 8...India will struggle big time in upcoming England ODIs provided Kohli & Uthappa score some runs at the top..

  • GAURAV on June 14, 2014, 2:40 GMT

    When writer says he had only 1 half century in 40 odd innings he forgets that India was chasing most times and it wasn't raina's fault that not many runs were left to get to win match for India. Also Virat kohli coming at top of the order scored most runs. He is one of the best one day players if you look at his record. Avg of 36 at strike rate of above 90 is just brilliant. India struggled without him in Asia Cup , that is the fact. Selectors now realize their mistake and bought him back. Also this talk of him struggling againt short ball is rubbish. He is an attacking batsmen and ocassionaly every batsmen get out palying short ball, especially when asking rate is 10 an over. Fact is that he is so good that even little things that goes wrong are made to look big. Talking about short ball did english batsmen played johnson well?? Also it is a huge skill to score hundreds against spin. When even tendulakr, dravid, laxman were struggling against mendis - Suresh Raina who scored hundred.

  • ESPN on June 14, 2014, 1:14 GMT

    Sehwag presence would fill the kohli and dhoni absence. Besides his experience would come handy for Raina on this crucial tour. You can't expect all this much from a new skipper without supporting him. Besides giving Segway a chance to Indian team.

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