Sri Lanka v India, 2nd Test, SSC, 4th day July 29, 2010

Raina's convincing first step

Suresh Raina's century on Test debut was hard earned and richly deserved, but tougher tests await for India's most promising emerging batsman

He may not be the best player of the short ball, but you will not find Suresh Raina lacking in effort and willingness to apply himself. It has been for all to see that among the breed of emerging batsmen in India, Raina is the most desperate to succeed. That quality, in a flashy and flamboyant batsman such as him, is rare to find. It is pleasing to see him get a century on Test debut. Like the debut, the century was well earned.

By the age of 23, Raina had seen the whole spectrum even without playing Test cricket. From the Next Big Thing to Greg Chappell's boy, to the IPL star, to the man who couldn't play the bouncer, to the captain who forgot to notify the umpire of the Powerplay, Raina has been through a lot. In between a knee injury put him in a state where he had forgotten "all about cricket", when he would watch kids at nets, while on crutches, just to get "back a feel for the game".

Raina also held the dubious record of having played the most ODIs before being considered good enough for Tests. He couldn't find a place even in the Board President's XI when South Africa toured India earlier this year. For a man making his debut in these circumstances - coming in during another Indian collapse on a tour of collapses - the flat track couldn't have been as flat as it has been for the others.

Raina, though, had made a positive statement even before he laid hands on the bat. When the Indian bowlers lacked inspiration, when the captain lacked imagination, when fielders lacked energy, Raina stood out, diving, charging, hustling, saving nearly 30 runs in the field. All through those 642 runs, one man showed there was no place that he would rather be. On a tour like this, when the famed batting line-up has tended to buckle under pressure, India could do with such intentions.

But a good fielder does not a Test cricketer make. Raina's chance with the bat would come, though, with Sachin Tendulkar looking for a partner to take India to safety and keep the series alive. Bouncers would be bowled, slog-sweeps would be fret upon, his patience would be tested. Forget the pitch, Raina passed the temperament test. He wasn't in a hurry when Sri Lanka were on the defensive, and when they attacked he duly found the gaps.

There was evidence that Raina had worked on how he played the short stuff. Admittedly Dilhara Fernando's bouncers, aimed at the ribs but misdirected often, were not the best a batsman will have to face, but there were signs Raina had made a conscious attempt to get slightly inside the line and stay out of harm's way. There was enough patience shown in not going for a desperate pull or hook. When he did fend, he kept them down.

Against the spinners Raina took charge. He was solid when he patted balls back to the bowler, decisive when he left them alone, and emphatic with his use of feet. Only when he and Tendulkar had averted danger did Raina play his favourite aerial shots. The first six, over wide long off, was beautiful to watch, the other, over midwicket, was a reminder he can attack in Tests too.

This particular innings was terrific because when he got in to bat, it was a tricky time. It didn't appear that he was playing his first Test
Sachin Tendulkar

Praise doesn't come higher than what Tendulkar said of his partner-in-rescue. "He showed tremendous character. Tremendous all-round game," Tendulkar said. "He was solid in his defence and played some magnificent shots. Left the ball well as well. This particular innings was terrific because when he got in to bat, it was a tricky time. It didn't appear that he was playing his first Test."

The only time it seemed he was playing his first Test was when he reached for a few deliveries in the 90s. That belied a man whose biggest improvement over the last year has been in confidence. Tendulkar spoke about that too. "One had to be a little more careful and 100% sure of what one was getting into," Tendulkar said. "Before you decided to play a big shot, you had to be 100% confident, and he has got tremendous confidence. I just allowed him to play his game. He has the ability to play big shots, and he was cleverly selecting them."

It was a responsible, efficient, solid effort in his first Test innings. When he punched one down the ground in 126th over, Raina raised his arm in the air as soon as the ball left the bat, knowing the hundred had been achieved, taking him into a select group of Indian centurions on debut, which includes batsmen such as Lala Amarnath, Gundappa Viswanath, Mohammad Azharuddin, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag. Joining them is perhaps the easier part. Tougher pitches and better bowlers now await Raina.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2010, 10:40 GMT

    You should have a big heart to make it @ the highest level,that's what Raina is all about.We have some outstanding talent in the names of yuvraj, rohit sharma & vijay but pure dedication and willingness to make it big has put raina ahead of all these god gifted talent.Surely he is the man to whom dhoni can always look to in the time of crises.Is this the emergence of new "MAN OF CRISES".

  • khurram on July 30, 2010, 13:04 GMT

    i think its too early to speculate anything about raina as he is still in his early days n mind u he struck century against worst bowling attacks (ofcourse less worse than indian attack) but i agree its high time for old horses like of dravid laxman n tendulkar to say good bye to cricket give some more chances to young blood

  • Dummy4 on July 30, 2010, 13:00 GMT

    People who say that Youths should come at the expense of Experience, I think they forget that Great Hussy (who had average above 75 in tests and above 80 in Ond-Day for a long time), got chance when he was 31 YO. It is not because he wasn't good before that age, but other players were not Jokers.. They were playing very high level of Cricket at very good records...

  • Mick on July 30, 2010, 12:36 GMT

    If there's any need for more proof the ICC is a toothless waste of space then its the ongoing joke that is highway pitches prepared on the subcontinent. Who allows it to continue?!?!?! I love Test cricket and want it to survive/prosper but this sort of rubbish makes me shake my head in sadness. I only hope the slow march towards flat, dead pitches in my own country, Australia, can be reversed because matches like this are an abomination.

  • Dummy4 on July 30, 2010, 12:30 GMT

    People who are saying Dravid and Laxman to retire after seeing Raina's inning against such a weak bowling attack on dead pitch, I am sure they are suffering from "Short Term Memory Loss" (Like Aamir Khan in Ghazani). They should keep track of min 20 last tests every time with them....

  • venkat on July 30, 2010, 12:28 GMT

    Those who want dravid & laxman to retire may please shut up.......I dont wanna take anything away from raina's effort but it does not mean for any reason that dravid & vvs need to leave.....

  • Dummy4 on July 30, 2010, 12:27 GMT

    @ ahmedjawwad4u

    You are right about sanga and mahela.. if you take out their performance from sub continental pitches their average would get in to 40s.. so is inzi, yousuf and younis they have pathetic average if you take out the subcontinental record.. but Sachin and Dravid have far better record in alien conditions, look at the average of sachin and Dravid in australia, england and west indies.. they are not the flat track bullies like mahela, yousuf, inzi and younis.. Check the facts before you say something about a great..

  • Dummy4 on July 30, 2010, 12:25 GMT

    Please do not insult Dravid and Laxman by comparing Raina with them. They are the pillars of the Indian test team. There will not be any Dravid and Laxman once they hang their bats. Indian team will never find any other Dravid and Laxman. If you see last 20 or even 50 tests records, it was either Dravid or Laxman who saved or won matches for us (at least 70% times).

    I even feel ashamed that a player like Raina is given Indian Test Cap but as now Dhoni is captain, so Indian Team Test Cap will be distributed to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

    Whatever said and done, but please insult Dravid and Laxman by comparing them with Rainas, Rohits, Kohlis...

  • Dummy4 on July 30, 2010, 12:20 GMT

    Please do not insult Dravid and Laxman by comparing them to players like Raina. There won't be any Dravid and Laxman once they retire. If you see last 10 or 20 tests records, 60-70% times either Dravid or Laxman saved us a test match.

    I even feel ashamed that a player like Raina is given test cap but now as Dhoni is captain, so test caps will be distributed to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

    Whatever said and done, but please do not compare Dravid andLaxman with Raina, Rohit, Kohli etc....

  • ShaShank on July 30, 2010, 12:16 GMT

    I guess Raina becomes one of the very few elite to have 100's in all 3 formats now...

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