October 22, 2010

Three for tomorrow

Raina, Kohli and Pujara still have rough edges, but in Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman, they have some of the best teachers and guides around

A young trio has been sighted, riding into Indian cricket with confidence and self-belief that would do their illustrious senior team-mates proud. They seem to belong, a state of existence that has thwarted many, and indeed have revelled in the pressure and attention that is part of the job description of playing for India. They are all batsmen, a fact that says as much about the aspirations of the young as it does about the pitches and the box office in Indian cricket. Or maybe those are related.

Suresh Raina leads the pack as the most exciting young player in India today. He is also probably the calmest, a fact not unrelated to his success. Often the person off the field has a considerable bearing on the performance of the person on it, and young Raina seems grounded, eager to learn, and has a wonderful habit of celebrating landmarks without seeming to be possessed by a demon. And like most people of his generation, he backs himself in attack; in a 50-50 situation he will prefer to go for it rather than wait. In the last couple of months, admittedly in conditions he thrives in, his confidence has shone through.

There is still a question mark over how he plays the short ball but his education isn't complete yet. It is a chapter that isn't yet on the syllabus for young Indian players, for year after year cricket is played on slow pitches and against medium-pacers. Raina is playing in an era where it is possible to be successful without really mastering the ball that is aimed at your throat, but whether or not he seeks to overcome that will be a pointer to his ambition.

There is little doubt that he has benefitted from playing in the IPL, for he has had to walk into situations that require him to take control. It is easy to malign the influence of the IPL, and indeed of all Twenty20, on the development of young cricketers, but never underestimate the lessons it can teach in handling pressure. Raina has learnt those, as indeed has Virat Kohli, who grows more impressive by the day.

There was a time when a violent temper and an ego unbecoming of someone so tender in years served as his identity. In recent times he has shown unmistakable signs of maturity, of becoming more versatile: happy to bat at No. 3 in a large run-chase, comfortable at No. 6 as a finisher in a Twenty20 match. His temperament seems a lot more solid now and he paces an innings really well, a sign of someone who is good at reading situations. It is generally perceived that the IPL, and other differently named but similar tournaments, encourage sloggers. The perception is only partly correct. Those tournaments are also throwing young men into high-pressure situations, and good players like Kohli are growing as a result.

However, Kohli is yet to recognise that scoring a century, or hitting the stumps from square of the wicket, is a happy occasion, not a moment to show off the range of expletives you possess. In course of time, like with the more level-headed Raina, he will treat victory with dignity, realise that aggression is a state of mind, not of body. There is little doubt that Kohli will soon play Test cricket, as indeed it is inevitable that Cheteshwar Pujara will one-day internationals.

Pujara has but one substantial innings behind him in international cricket, but more impressive than even the runs he scored in Bangalore was the manner in which he assessed the situation. The scoreboard was moving but there seemed a calmness around him. Unlike Kohli or Raina, he has chosen the more traditional - some might say the harder - route to the national team. For three years he has scored runs everywhere he has gone, and that means he has played on benign and spiteful wickets, in happy times and more demanding ones. He is as ready to play international cricket as anybody that our system can throw up. And if he does well, we will have a young man who reads scripture to motivate himself.

Each of these three will benefit, not suffer from, the presence of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman. It will be the best finishing school they could ask for, and hopefully it will help smoothen the passing of the baton.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 25, 2010, 16:31 GMT

    I dont cinsider Virat Kohli in the same league as Suresh Raina. He is nowhere near, neither in technique nor in temperament. As some one else posed the question, where is Irfan Pathan ? Why isnt he picked for India XI ? He can make it as a batsman. leave alone his left arm swing bowling.

  • Ranjan on October 25, 2010, 15:20 GMT

    hay "jokistan" , this is drama played by Srilankan and Pakistan Cricket board to break indian Teams moral, so please use your head

  • Mohsin on October 25, 2010, 14:48 GMT

    Kohli has talent to play well in subcontinent donno how he wud do abroad on bouncy n swingin wickets.Yes kohli is arrogant.In sl triseries,he edged one to the keeper.Snicko showd he nickd it wid no part of his body close to d ball but his bat.When d batter gets a faint nick,he is d first one know it.On being given out,he had a look on his face saying-how d heck can dis sl umpire adjudge a superstar like me as out.Kohli learn to b humble.Der r many legends in dressing room frm whom u can learn it.Please dont act in front of d camera,not at least in dis age of techno which gives on the spot certificate of ur character.U cud hav tried it 20 yrs back.Bcci act sane n start using udrs.Stop dis nonsense of acting as godfathers of cricket nd feigning that u wud monitor ashes series abt udrs credibility nd delaying its use.If u really wanted to know its credibility see the recent eng-pak series.Even a layman can say that udrs reduces umpiring errors.I think they want to use their clout n influence on umpiring decisions as long as possibl so dat india remains no.1. I m indian n want to see india on top bt dis is pure bullying by d bcci bcoz they r in power.England ruled icc n cricket earlier bt never took undue advantage of it on the field n umpiring decisions.They used money to improve stadia nd comfort of spectators who make this sport a success

  • Farhan on October 25, 2010, 8:49 GMT

    raina is a match fixer, he should be suspended

  • Harvey on October 25, 2010, 1:15 GMT

    India's batting has a bright future, the worry is their bowling. They need one or two genuine pace bowlers.

  • yasir on October 24, 2010, 22:21 GMT


  • Shah Sohaib on October 24, 2010, 18:48 GMT

    it is such a disgrace that cricinfo a site which i thought was unbiased and gave information relating to cricket being neutrl was not posted any thing about Suresh raina's match fixing scandal, where as against Pak players the site was full of stories, for God sake's stop being so supportive of India

  • Ravi on October 24, 2010, 18:27 GMT

    Harsha seems to have missed out on Murali Vijay -he comes in only if Sehwag or Gambhir are unfit and makes his presence felt in the Tests-a triple century stand with Sachin against the Aussies is not common occurence plus the match winning performanes in T20 in IPL and the Champions trophy makes him a man to be reckoned with once his place in the side is permanent in all forms.

  • Vikram on October 24, 2010, 16:46 GMT

    Raina Pujara and Kohli are talented, but have miles to go before they can fill the shoes of Sachin, Laxman and Dravid ... well described in http://senantixtwentytwoyards.blogspot.com/2010/10/three-amigos-and-young-man.html - however, in India there is a craze to replace the old with the young ... one of the oldest countries with a craze for youth - strange.

  • uma on October 24, 2010, 15:15 GMT

    well about rohit given the numerous chances he failed to latch on them. well raina is leading the group even his averages in first class are not as big as others. so it says about your temperment. players like rohit can perform in first class level may not able to playi n international level. koli and pujara has shown the caliber againist world best team. so they proved worth for future!

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