England v India, 2nd ODI, Cardiff August 27, 2014

Small steps as Raina chases big runs

Suresh Raina has kept himself in contention for India outside of Asia by doing the small things well - now he needs to produce big innings with greater regularity

Play 01:53
'Raina's innings was fantastic' - Dhoni

In the 30th over, MS Dhoni smashed the first ball he faced back at the offspinner James Tredwell. More often than is healthy, we have seen this shot run out the non-striker because they are always on the lookout for a single. Tredwell dived as the ball went to his left - he was bowling round the wicket - but behind him, Suresh Raina had his bat in the right hand, which was right in this case, and he dived back just in case. The ball hit the stumps, but the umpire didn't even need to check if Tredwell had got a finger on it because Raina was well in.

These are small things, as many a dopey batsman who has been run out at the non-striker's end or Mankaded will tell you. Raina does small things well. He backs up for throws; he dives around the every given opportunity; he slaps the bottoms of his team-mates when they field well; he enjoys fielding; he gives Dhoni a few miserly overs, which is why he is in the team playing ODIs outside Asia. For the big things - the runs - have mostly been a matter of potential when it comes to playing in tough conditions.

Before this match, Raina had crossed the score of 50 only three times in 55 innings outside Asia. That, for a specialist batsman, is not pretty. He had paid for it earlier in the year, when he was dropped after the New Zealand tour. He had a good IPL, again, and came back as the captain when many of the seniors gave the Bangladesh tour a miss. He retained that place for this England tour, which can be put down to what he brings to the side apart from his batting. He would have been under pressure to prove his batting.

He still will be, actually. This was a high-quality century, coming at a time when two batsmen had got out to soft dismissals in the middle of the innings, but Dhoni was quick to point out that it won't ensure Raina a fixed place in the World Cup plans.

"The thing is, if a batsman plays one good innings you talk him right up," Dhoni said. "If he doesn't play good a innings or if he had not played this innings, the question would have been entirely different. If he doesn't score in a couple of games against West Indies you will be the person asking some other question. Let's move ahead. It was a very good hundred. The World Cup is still three-four series away. Hopefully he won't be injured, and will be available for selection, and that will be good for us."

Dhoni might have been phlegmatic about the implications of the knock, but for the innings itself he was full of praise. "It was a fantastic knock," Dhoni said. "By the end of the 30th over, I don't know what the score was, but I don't think we had scored too many. It was important that he stayed there because he was one batsman who was set. And we have realised that if we can get a partnership going, if we have wickets in hand, we can have a lot of runs in the last 10-12 overs, so his innings was very crucial. He is someone who scores at a very quick pace, and plays authentic cricketing shots. So I feel he played a fantastic innings, once he got his fifty he continued and moved on to play some fantastic shots and got his hundred."

India were 110 for 3 in the 24th over when Raina came in. It was soon to become 132 for 4 in the 30th. This was a side that had spent the last two tours outside Asia without a win. They were looking at another slide. Raina could have been given out lbw on 17 but after that he played pretty much as well as you can play in that situation. There was his usual moving inside the line to counter the short ball, but there were some nice drives through the off side, and chips off the spinners.

Almost inconspicuously, Raina reached 36 off 43, and then exploded in the Powerplay. He used the ground's short straight boundaries well. He ran extremely well. Dhoni was allowed to play himself in, as he likes to do. It was a perfect No. 5's innings. Raina, who has not been able to cement himself a particular slot in the batting order and has been floating around, has got the captain's nod for No. 5. Dhoni said that 98 times out of 100, in similar situations, you will see Raina come in at No. 5. If only he can keep on playing as well as he did in Cardiff.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steven on August 29, 2014, 2:55 GMT

    To me raina is better then just a finisher number five is agood position for him if they lose early wickets he's good enough to come in and rebuild a inning and if he comes in half way through the innings then he can finish it off so for me he can do both jobs reasonably well so there should be hundreds for him at he bats at five from now on it's understating rainas ability if you call him just a finisher to me he looks better then that

  • Sathya on August 29, 2014, 1:03 GMT

    That was a nicely paced innings from Raina. Gud to c a Indian bat like that after a long time. A breezy innings started from the powerplays, which Raina & Dhoni played powerfully. To me Raina is INDIAN MICHEAL BEVAN!!!!

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2014, 16:33 GMT

    Well done Raina... from Sri lankan fan

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2014, 15:24 GMT

    @ Dipankar Banerjee on (August 28, 2014, 12:01 GMT):

    I have counted at least six posts, after this match (and more earlier), saying: "...Drop Dhawan, Get Rahane to open in Dhawan's place. And bring Samson in...Or, something to the same effect..."

    Is there anyone in the team management listening. Hello! Hello! Shastri! Fletcher! Dhoni! Bangar! ... Anyone there?

  • gautam on August 28, 2014, 14:55 GMT

    raina is the most fluent left handed stroke making batsman at present

  • gautam on August 28, 2014, 14:52 GMT

    well done raina. he must be given a chance in test matches to.because he has improved a lot as a perfect batsman ,he is a good fielder in any position even in slips.he is a left handed batsman which india is lacking in middle order and also he is the only player who keeps the team cheer up and encourages everyone.

  • Garolian on August 28, 2014, 14:48 GMT

    I loved his comment when receiving his award that even though he was not picked for the Tests, he was intimately involved and observing everything keenly. That is the way. Never to rub it in and crow about your ability. Keep it up Raina my man. We love you.

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2014, 14:43 GMT

    Shikhar Dhawan needs to be dropped immediately.He doesnt have the standard to play International cricket.He cant even succeed in Ranji at this stage of his career.

  • Ashok on August 28, 2014, 13:29 GMT

    Raina & Dhoni are the 2 Most dominant & the best "Finishers" in the ODI cricket. They showed it again with a 144 run partnership when India really needed a big score from them. But the best part of Raina's batting is his S/R. His lifetime batting average in ODI is about 35 but his S/R is 92. Today his century came @ a S/R of 130+. The fact his batting average is not outstanding is because he is always expected to bat at a high S/R. So he mostly gets out in 30's. In the Cardiff ODI he had to build the Indian innings + its total as well, By God, he did it most authoritatively. What short ball? England had 4 Man pace attack in 135 KPH+ which was clobbered. Anderson, Jordon, Stokes & Woakes all had to face he wrath of Raina's bat. It was valuable Match winning high Octane responsible innings. Raina has literally replaced Yuvraj + his outstanding fielding is the best part of his game. In ODI Cricket, He has worked hard to combat his perceived susceptibility to the short pitched balls.

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2014, 12:46 GMT

    People complaining about his lack of centuries must just see the position he bats; 5,6 and even 7. In 2008 Raina was going great batting at 3 but gave the spot to Gambhir because India wanted to play Sachin, Viru and Gambhir. The spot then went to Kohli and Raina was left the finisher. That position is always hard because you are in either at the fall of three quick wickets or come in near the 35th over and have to smash from ball 1. Yes he did have some struggles overseas but which Indian batsmen didn't.

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