Australia in India 2013-14 October 14, 2013

India begin Project Raina

India are trialling Suresh Raina at No 4 as back-up for Yuvraj Singh ahead of the 2015 World Cup. But does Raina have the game to succeed in the top order?

As he dissected India's performance after their heavy defeat to Australia in the first ODI, MS Dhoni also revealed an important development: India are trying to develop Suresh Raina as a No 4 batsman with an eye on the 2015 World Cup. This was why Raina had been sent in ahead of long-time No 4 Yuvraj Singh in Pune, and he would bat there for a while, according to his captain.

"As of now what we want is for Suresh to bat at No 4 for a considerable period of time," Dhoni said. "It's only Yuvraj Singh who we have got and if he is in good form and we go till the World Cup without anything happening, then he will bat there. But if he doesn't, all of a sudden we can't say we do not have a No 4 batsman.

"All the other slots, we have players and we even have replacements. But apart from Yuvraj, I don't see anybody who has batted 50 ODIs at No 4. That can be a concern and we will have to rectify that from this point. No point going too late and then saying we don't have time to do anything."

Dhoni's rationale in wanting a back-up for a crucial batting position is understandable, especially given Yuvraj's recent history. Yes, he's made his second comeback since recovering from cancer but it is still unclear how his form will hold up as the World Cup approaches. He is obviously the first-choice No 4 but there is every reason to have a contingency plan in place.

So for the second time in his eight-year international career, Raina will get another sustained run up the order. The first opportunity had come in 2008, when over 13 successive innings in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, he produced one century and four fifties at an average of nearly 40.

As his career has progressed, Raina's desire to gain a promotion in the line-up has increased. He's seen Virat Kohli come in and establish himself at No 3 with a string of hundreds. Raina knows that for all the death-over slogging, it is the centuries that catch attention and bring lasting recognition. Last year, Raina pointed out that he'd "scored only three (ODI) hundreds", as he staked his claim for elevation again.

While Raina's desire cannot be faulted, mere elevation in the batting order will not result in more hundreds. They will have to be earned by taking on the responsibility of building an innings, something Raina hasn't exactly shown the inclination for when he has been given the chance. Captaincy should ideally translate into more cautious batting, as in Dhoni's case, but when Raina led India in Zimbabwe in 2010 and in the West Indies in 2011, he refused to change his aggressive approach.

India had sent second-string sides for both tours, and Raina mostly came in with plenty of overs to go after a top-order wobble. In nine innings over those tours, he averaged 23.57, including two not-outs in chases that were almost over by the time he walked in. Three times he failed going for his favourite slog-sweep when the situation demanded restraint.

In Pune, Raina looked to launch James Faulkner over midwicket, after gaining a hard-earned start against Mitchell Johnson's pace, and fell for 39. It was not the ideal response from a No 4 batsman at that point in a tough chase. Raina, however, is used to going for similar strokes to similar deliveries. Aggression comes naturally to him. Also, an overwhelming majority of his career has been spent at No 5 or below. Often, he doesn't have the luxury of getting himself in so these shots are instinctive.

It is not to say Yuvraj would have never gone for the same shot at that moment. But at No 4, a batsman must temper the urge to turn a 10-run over into a 16-run over with an eye on the big picture. Yuvraj has done that successfully for more than a decade. He can hit six sixes in an over in a Twenty20, but he also makes sure he lasts long enough to get the big scores that win ODI games. That necessitates controlling the urge to deposit one more over midwicket. It needs one to duck under a few short balls early on rather than try to work them for singles, one of Raina's preferred ways of handling the bouncer barrage he usually faces. Dhoni knows Raina will need some time to unlearn and adjust.

"We will have to give him some kind of experience at No 4," Dhoni said. "He's batted too long at No 6. That is why sometimes you see these instinctive shots, when the batsman sees and goes after them. It is very important that he uses these opportunities well. Then we'll have two batsmen who have a fair amount of exposure at No 4."

Raina has the chance to increase his centuries from "only three." Will he able to adapt and rein himself in? India will have a clearer picture of his ability by the end of the Australia series.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 17, 2013, 14:11 GMT

    I was opening batsman,My suggestion to Raina is to wait on pitch for more than 25 overs. In ODI's doesn't need to score run at 7/8 Run rate every time.He need to learn how pace the innings. He can make some little adjustment in his stance and can hit short ball at his will.His left shoulders falls on off stump. If he stand out side leg stump he can view the line of ball more accurately. I think everyone need opprtunity and Raina deserves it.

  • Reghu on October 16, 2013, 11:38 GMT

    This is all good....but i seriously think that Vinay Kumar and Ishant sharma should be sacked immediately and even if two solid batsmen are taken , it wont do more harm......someone like Dinesh Karthik/Rayudu/Uthappa/Yousuf Pathan can be brought in - bowling 20 overs can be managed by even Kohli/raina/yuvraj who may not leak more than what ishant/vinay did today and in last match........

  • Anil on October 16, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    We have better players than Raina like Rayadu, Karthik, Saurabh Tiwari etc., why waste time on Raina, he has shown no improvement against short bowls, he technique is very poor against quality fast bowling.

  • Dummy4 on October 16, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    Project raina- hmm sounds interesting as any project would do, but player in question is a veteran of 170+ matches & still need grooming. sounds absurd. And added to that, i dont think he's technically that sound. But dhoni stating there's no other option sounds hallow as they have options in rahane, raydu, and some upcoming players like samson.I dint include pujara bcos he's fitness would b under scanner given he's got 2 knee surgeries done. But i would b more concerned with our bowling resources. How long would v play aswin & jadaeja together given both of them r overt line & length bowlers with minimum turn. Mishra can prove our trump card given his guile & spin. He's not bad with bat either. lets see ?

  • Dummy4 on October 16, 2013, 7:36 GMT

    What is Vinay Kumar still doing in the team..? Get him out and bring in M. Shami to bowl at least he is better at taking wickets. The bowling unit is always India's misery Ashwin can try out his tricks sitting in the bench. Match is not the right place for it.

  • Dummy4 on October 16, 2013, 7:20 GMT

    Why experiment for number 4 when yuvi perfoming well , can india need only replacement for nmbr 4 yuvi , there is no need for the replacement for vinay , ashwin and ishant who not performing well at the.moment . It means india only need replacement for performing slot and not for the non-performing slots . And whats mishra done wrong ? Can any tell me

  • Heramb on October 16, 2013, 7:17 GMT

    @ Kapil Dhoni is biased and that shows. Ishant is the only player that has got a long rope and is not a CSK guy. Murali Vijay has not scored heavily for Dhoni to press his case in place of Dhawan. Pujara and Rahane despite obvious talent and Pujara's success in Tests as the pivotal No.3 has not got his chances in the one-day team when Dhoni has been around. Ashwin is good but has been persisted with despite some mediocre performances while Amit Mishra continues to warm the benches. As for Project Raina, seriously not required as there can be only one project currently, drop him for the last 4 ODIs on current form if he does not fire in the next 2. And what about stand-by WK and couple of back-up openers with experience in NZ, SA, Eng and Aus conditions before WC. Dhoni seems to have conveniently turned a blind eye to it. If Aus win this series, Dhoni needs to cop the blame. However, would back him to remain the skipper till 2015 wC

  • Ajit on October 16, 2013, 7:13 GMT

    I dont think its a right move by Dhoni. As N number of opportunities where given to Mr Raina which he did not utilize. He is just a T-20 Player nothing else. My suggestion is Rohit Sharma and Raina should not be included in the playing !! Let them find their for and get fit for Oneday matches.

  • Nethaji on October 16, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    Even if Dhoni bring Mohit as a repclacement for Ishant, people will say that he is favouring CSK

  • Nethaji on October 16, 2013, 7:08 GMT

    How do you come to conclusion that Rohit & Raina will fail in World cup? Both of them improved their batting a lot in recent times. When India A travelled to South Africa to play two unofficial test matches against South Africa A. Both Raina & Rohit scored centuries in the only innings they played. Pujara too scored a century in that innings and India A won that match without having the need to play the 2nd innings. Vijay, Karthick and Rayudu replaced Dhawan, Rohit & Raina in the 2nd test and they failed to put a decent show. India A lost that match.