New Zealand v India, 3rd ODI, Auckland January 24, 2014

Is Raina India's best No.5?

Suresh Raina is known to make quick runs, but does he have the game to last longer when conditions and situations are both difficult

Suresh Raina is known for throwing himself around on the field, and even with only four men outside the circle, MS Dhoni trusts him enough to hand him the ball now and then. But do India believe he is the best man they have to walk in at 30 for 3 against Dale Steyn or Mitchell Johnson at the MCG in the 2015 World Cup? It is unusual for such a question to even be contemplated for a man who is 12 short of 200 ODIs. But the fact that it is being asked is revealing.

It is staggering for a batsman who is in his ninth year of international cricket to still have a major problem with the short ball. It is also staggering that a batsman with such a problem should have played as much top-grade cricket as Raina has. But this is not only about the short ball. Bouncer or not, Raina does not provide the confidence that he can last long enough to revive India from 30 for 3 against sustained, quality fast bowling away from subcontinent conditions.

The team management seems to have faith in him though, they recently thought of developing him as a back-up No.4 batsman for the World Cup. Raina had four innings at that position at home against Australia. Twice, he fell cheaply to Johnson's bouncer (he fell similarly to Adam Milne in Napier). In a terrible series for bowlers - 350-plus totals were hunted down twice with ease - Raina managed a highest of 39. That innings ended when he swiped at James Faulkner and mis-hit to third man.

That swipe over midwicket is probably Raina's defining stroke. It emphasises he is an aggressive player, that he does not like to be tied down. But if he bats at No.5 in Australia or South Africa, there will be days when he will have no choice but to be circumspect for a while. Does Raina have the patience and the skills to bide his time? Can he survive a few hostile overs from Johnson and Steyn? If after so many years, there are still doubts over that aspect of his game, then we probably know the answer.

The swipe is also symbolic of Raina for another reason. In India, he often comes in when quick runs are needed. There is little problem with swiping everything over midwicket at the death. But do India want a No.5 ODI batsman whose primary skill is that?

It might pass at home where the top order more often than not sets up games. But to have so much belief in a man, who often needs a senior partner at the other end, seems difficult to justify. Especially when India have one of the greatest limited-overs batsmen ever to follow Raina at No. 6. Dhoni not only finishes games better than Raina does, he also rebuilds and revives without much discomfort. Tellingly, Raina manages just over 28 outside Asia with three fifties. Dhoni averages nearly 42 with 16 half-centuries. And he also promotes himself ahead of Raina at times.

Dhoni did that in the second ODI in Hamilton. Raina came in at No.6, when the asking-rate was quite high. He fell after clubbing 35 off 22.

Dhoni sounded satisfied with the effort. "It was a certain kind of game that was demanded of him [Raina] in this particular innings," he said. "It was good. He is someone who plays aggressive cricket but it is important to control your mind as to what are the areas you want to hit. If it is not there, [your have to see] what are the options you have got. It is not like you want to try and hit something, [and] even if is not there you go for a big shot. That was something he did particularly well in this innings. Hopefully he will gather plenty of confidence after this innings and carry on longer."

The point, however, is whether Raina has the game to last longer when conditions and situations are difficult? Or are India happy to go to the World Cup with a No.5 whose strongest suit is scoring quick, late runs? That is, if he manages to survive the inevitable early bouncer barrage.

If Dhoni feels the need to come in at No.5 ahead of Raina, India might be better off picking someone like Stuart Binny at No.6. He will give them a seam-bowling option, something Raina cannot. And he might not do much worse than Raina is at present with the bat.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kannan on January 27, 2014, 6:05 GMT

    Raina is even today one of the most valuable assets in the Indian team especially when it needs to score big runs at a fast clip. Dhoni, Raina and Kohli are the 3 who are indispensable and those who don't understand this, clearly don't understand ODI and T20 cricket.

  • Ibrahim on January 27, 2014, 5:23 GMT

    Suresh Raina's drought has been longer. He has scored just one fifty - that too against Zimbabwe - in his last 30 innings without any threat to his place in the side. The rope must be getting shorter.

  • Android on January 25, 2014, 11:23 GMT

    you cant definitely doubt raina's talent but he has to make that into reality i think he is far more comfortable batting at 3 or 4 positions where he can build an innings as you see it in ipl.i agree ipl and international cricket are two different things.i think yuvraj is far more reliable than raina snd some other players like yusuf nayer binny should also be given a chance

  • Manoj on January 25, 2014, 9:13 GMT

    When it comes to wc 2015,pitches in Aus/NZ are hard and the grounds are longer than indian pitches..So we need someone who can be a striker,slogger and hard hitter."that is none other than Yuvraj Singh"yep he did that back in england lord's stadium.yes he is the who can combine striking,slogging and hard hitting! unlike yuvi others dont combine these things

  • Manoj on January 25, 2014, 8:36 GMT

    Its obvious you got to pick Yuvraj Singh for Icc T20WC.You cant rely on these youngsters either.I guess he should be made as captain in T20 coz dhoni havent made a fifty plus score in T20s.He is far more better than any indian batsman in T20s he leads the table in almost categories like highest strike rate,Highest average,Fastest fifty,Six sixes in an Over.Most Man of the Match awards,Most number of sixes.His recent performance against Eng,pak,Aus in T20s shows how talent he is.He struck atleast one six in these matches.So If you are going to drop yuvraj then get ready to loose!!

  • Manoj on January 25, 2014, 8:01 GMT

    I dont think Raina should get another to prove his worth in the team! He exhausted all his fans.Maybe he should be given some rest.The selectors made wrong decision by dropping Yuvraj singh yet he is going through his bad phase but we know crucial to pick him in the squad.Raina's performances are worst than yuvraj singh.The selectors should have picked him.He won you two worldcups wont you consider this,and yeah he is been out due to his illness,But he made a solid comeback against WI.The selectors are making wrong decision with dropping yuvi everytime when he is out of form.If that is the case you cant pick your team either!The Whole team needs to be changed I guess.Bring Pujara,Gambhir,Yuvraj,Harbhajan &zaheer/Varun in place of Rahane,Jadeja,Raina,Ashwin ,Ishant

  • Dummy on January 25, 2014, 7:19 GMT

    Raina good at No.5?? How many chances did he get above no.5 and I'm sure it's like lots of responsibility playing at 5 and he did a fine job there... Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma should be dropped from the team.. India will lose this series and blame must go on Dhoni coz he didn't do justice for Pujara.. I think Yuvraj Singh will do better job with bat and spin bowl than Ashwin or look for some other spinner... Jadeja Shikar Dhawan should be given couple of chances in overseas and decision to be made... We don't need Ishant Sharma Rohit Sharma and Ashwin and you people like pain for the Indian team..

  • Achi on January 25, 2014, 7:13 GMT

    In ODIs, Raina is better among the yellow tags when compared to our 7 and 8, Ashwin and Jadeja. All teams have better allrounders in that slot, all of them can score 10-20 runs, if not more, in any match. Ashwin look better in batting; but his running between the wickets is so poor that it takes the advantage away from him

  • mat on January 25, 2014, 7:10 GMT

    It's a matter of time before Manoj Tiwary is fit . Remember he was ahead of Rahane and Rayudu in the pecking order . If he was fit for this tour he would have been the number 4. He is a brilliant fielder and way better than Rahane. To his detractors who find him technically incompetent you always don't need a tight technique to flourish . How unorthodox is Kevin pietersen ? Tiwary after kohli is temperamentally the next best . Whenever provided a chance in the international arena he has grabbed it . He has scored abundant runs against a teams . As for his cluelessness against the short ball if he works the way bairstow ,kohli did it I'm sure he can find a way around it . Sourav ganguly not Steve Waugh were any better against the short ball. The main thing about Tiwary is he can guts it out . Doesn't mind if it comes out ugly . He is the scrappy gutsy batsman you need unlike Raina and Rohit Sharma . Pujara would be a complete misfit instead it would be better to have gambhir instead .

  • Dummy4 on January 25, 2014, 7:02 GMT

    India were lucky having won the World cup playing Raina at No.6.. I am a big fan of Rain when he is playing for CSK. I also feel that he is not a player to be fit enough to play for a No.1 ODI or a Champion India team. Raina need to be replaced.

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