West Indies v India, 1st Test, Kingston, 1st day June 20, 2011

Raina shapes up to rescue India

Patience and discipline were Suresh Raina's watchwords when bailing India out of trouble on the opening day

Sometimes, the grimness of a situation can make you forget your self-doubt. Sometimes, it can even set you free. When Suresh Raina entered the crime scene littered with evidence left by Devendra Bishoo, India were limping at 69 for 4. Soon, they were reeling at 85 for 6.

The personal context, too, must have pumped in additional pressure. Raina had failed in the ODI series, playing too many big shots too early. If S Badrinath hadn't looked out of sorts in the ODI series, Raina might not even have got a chance. If Rohit Sharma was in the squad for the Tests, he might have played due to his ODI performances. Sabina Park could have felt like a slaughter house but Raina later said he went in with a "blank mind". It seemed unbelievable. The mind wasn't clouded by dark thoughts? His perceived demons were ensnaring our minds; weren't they wreaking havoc inside his? His short-ball problems, his tendency to overdo the "positive" approach and let adrenaline take over are no state secrets. Blank mind? Bah!

There were four bouncers in the first 12 deliveries he faced. Raina ducked, weaved and swayed away from the line of fire. "It was a two-paced pitch but there wasn't as much pace on it as I would have liked," Fidel Edwards said. After that initial probe, West Indies didn't try too many short balls until later in the innings. The ball wasn't seaming much but it was beginning to turn a fair amount. And there was uneven bounce and enormous scoreboard pressure. It was here that Harbhajan Singh helped with his counterattack and Raina began to find his feet.

"I was just looking to bat straight and remain patient and maintain my shape." Shape is a word Raina uses a lot whenever you talk to him about his batting. It refers to his body and head position and the general balance when playing a shot. The first real evidence of that "shape" appeared during the 20th delivery he faced. He had hit a four - a drive through cover point - before that, but it didn't have the same class as the next one. It was a tossed up delivery outside off and Raina glided forward and leaned fully into the drive through extra cover. It's his signature shot when he is in good flow.

Often, in limited-overs games, Raina starts to attack through midwicket. Today, he showed patience. Perhaps, Bishoo was losing his. "He was tossing it up and getting it to turn against the right-hand batsmen. But for left-hand batsmen, he thought he would be taken over covers or midwicket. I just remained patient and wanted to play as straight as possible."

The test of that patience came shortly after that boundary. Darren Sammy removed Bishoo and brought himself on along with Ravi Rampaul. Raina added just one run in 20 deliveries. There were 15 dot balls when he was stuck on 25. In the world of Raina, that's too many. He is no Rahul Dravid. An edged boundary and a punched cut of Sammy lessened the claustrophobia somewhat. What was he feeling then?

"I told myself just hang in there. Be patient. You have to watch the hands of bowler. Rampaul was reversing. Your mind has to be clear. If you are looking to drive along the ground, your shape doesn't get affected." That word shape, again.

In the middle, Sammy brought back Bishoo. Raina pulled a short ball to the backward square-leg boundary. Sammy gave himself one extra over. Raina drove him through mid-off and back past Harbhajan for successive fours. Bishoo tempted him with a flighted delivery but Raina dealt with it with twinkling feet. Again, it went through wide mid-off.

Raina's run chart showed signs of a disciplined mind. Barring an uncontrolled cut boundary against Edwards early in his knock, it wasn't until he reached 70 that he hit another four against the quicker bowlers. Even then, the ball dictated the shot. He slashed a short and wide delivery from Ravi Rampaul after tea, followed by a silken straight drive against the same bowler. It was almost as if he had tattooed two phrases on his brain: drive straight and maintain shape. And by doing that he saved Indian innings from going completely pear-shaped. Maybe he did go in with a blank mind after all.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shravan on June 22, 2011, 12:31 GMT

    @Mohit: First things first Roach is playing this test. Did you just say West Indies bowling is equavilaent to Englands? hahaha that was really funny. In case you didnt know England have Anderson, Tremlett and Swann. If Finn plays instead of Broad, theirs will be the best attack in world cricket and i can't see Raina scoring against them. (Though I'd say this current West Indies bowling is better than India's at the moment minus Zaheer and the great Anil Kumble). Rohit and Virat are going to be the flag-bearers of Indian cricket(in the 5-day format).

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2011, 8:42 GMT

    @Mohit Mohan: Virat has played only one innings in test matches, and if you are suggesting that he has not performed in one days against good opposition, then please check the records. It is fine to say that Raina play well on this day, but you don't have to belittle others, Kohli in particular.

  • Vikas on June 22, 2011, 8:05 GMT

    Its funny that how people don't miss a chance to disapprove India's No.1 Test status. This Indian side is playing without Sehwag, Gambhir, Sachin, Zaheer and many more!!

    Get a life..

  • Finn on June 22, 2011, 0:18 GMT

    No mention of Bhajji? Surely without his knock Raina would in all likelihood have combusted and been out caught in the deep for 20-30. They batted so well on what was a great day of classic Test cricket. Morning session belonged to the bowlers and survival was the objective for batsmen. Afternoon was where you can cash in after working hard in the morning. The evening sparked a late collapse and a testing mini session for the opposition batsmen. A great advertisment for the longer format of the game.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2011, 16:12 GMT

    Those who say Sri lankan are poor .....look at how india play against West indies...hah ahaha ahahahhahaha!!!!!!! Good luck in England!!!! :D

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2011, 15:30 GMT

    Critics will say Raina has this weakness and that weakness but fact remains.....Raina performs on regular basis and has played many match winning knocks in past under adverse situations.......Reminds me of those days when every critic bet 100% that Sehwag would not be success in tests...

  • Madhusudhan on June 21, 2011, 15:13 GMT

    Sriram/Sabina..lovely article & the way you guys described the word 'SHAPE' !

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2011, 14:42 GMT

    extremely happy to see raina playing patiently..he showed gr8 patience in handling fast bowlers... gr8 guns raina pls carry on

  • Rajaram on June 21, 2011, 14:19 GMT

    4/64 in two hours by lunch on day one, 5 / 83. 6 /87 - the top oder dismantled by a lowly side ranked 8 th,and you call yourselves the No.1 Test team in the world? Don't make me laugh. Play more Twenty 20 cricket. It teaches you how to apply yourselves to Test cricket. Sic.

  • Arv on June 21, 2011, 14:17 GMT

    Sriram writes a whole page article on Suresh Raina but forgets to mention Harbhajan Singh totally. Anyone who watched the game would know how timidly he started his innings. It was Harbhajan who started the offensive agaisnt the WIndies bowlers. Harbhajan was the dominating partner till they reached 100 run partnership. Raina began to assert himself after that and played well for a well deserved runs. My comments highlight the biased perspective of the author who made it look like it was just Raina who rescued the Indian innings.

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