He tries his level best to get on top of it. His prepares for it all the time. His mind is ready. His bat sure is. He knows it is coming – nearer, clearer, and deadlier than ever before. He’s pretty much up for it. There is profound conviction in him to get the mission accomplished. Literally, he waits for it. But in the end, he just isn’t able to get the job done.
I do feel sorry for the ones who anticipated that there were prizes for guessing who’s the gritty persona being referred to. Suresh Raina and the short ball share such an ugly and unpleasant relationship. He obviously seems to be working very hard to overcome it, but what counts is the on-field showing, something that’s been eluding him for long. It has gone to that extent that his sight in the middle is enough an indication for a captain to bring a pacer into the attack without needing to tell him what needs to be done. All the pacer has to do is bang the ball in the middle of twenty two yard strip. What comes next simply haunts him.
It happened yet again. He saw a ‘Mitchell’, this time around in black uniforms, running in, and to his expectation, banging it short. It ends only one way; he was next seen making his way back to the dressing room. Why does he still struggle when he knows what’s going to transpire next? It does seem that he has overcomplicated the entire thing. The books do tell you that being mentally prepared is the key to face a short ball. Raina seems to strictly believe in that.
However, what the books also tell you is that peace of mind is the most essential requisite for playing any sport – something he hasn’t grasped. Foreign conditions, pace, bounce, and track record against the rising delivery – these are the aspects that seem to play on his mind, leading to error in judgement. He commits himself with the horizontal bat irrespective of the speed and line of the delivery. More often than not, he’s half done with the shot even before the ball reaches him. Making things even miserable is the fact that a short ball puts him out of place immediately. Anticipating the perfume delivery every single time, the full pitched deliveries bowled in between become the real wicket takers.
Ridiculously so, once he sees it pitched short, the line of the delivery matters less given he takes off with the pull shot instantaneously. Making matters worse is his unstable position while playing the shot. He tends to be nervous and on his toes while playing the shot. The coaches tell you at the junior level to keep your feet grounded while executing your shots. Raina, simply doesn’t get in any kind of position to play the shot, as simple as that.
Indeed, it is unfair to single out a particular player, time and again, for hurling criticism. There are millions of cricketers around the world with their numerous technical woes. In India itself, take Yuvraj for example who had similar issues as well. Shikhar Dhawan and hook shots don’t get along well too. The Indian skipper, MS Dhoni has found the going tough in seaming conditions. What differentiates Raina’s case from others is that his performance; which has taken a beating for long now, and he, somehow, continues to feature in national colours. Since the Champions Trophy triumph in England, he has just scored 462 runs at 25.66.
How does Raina rectify what’s going wrong? Well to begin with, he has got to remove the mental block. What seems to be the case here is that at the sight of one short ball – he gets alarmed, becomes insecure and is on his toes. Calmness of mind needs to creep in, first and foremost. Secondly, he must remember that he doesn’t need to possess all the shots in the book. If he isn’t able to execute it, he must better avoid playing it in the match situation. Leaving the ball isn’t an art one would regret to have in his armory. A short ball isn’t a wicket taking option. Unless a batter pokes at such a delivery, virtually there is nil probability of getting oneself out.
Yes, the point is valid that in a limited overs game, you can’t avoid playing too many deliveries. However, a bowler can’t bowl more than two legitimate bouncers an over. So there is a reprieve on the way; you just got to make sure you are there at the crease when you get them. He has got to temper his want for the pull shot.
If he doesn’t approve of the idea suggested, he can consider taking a temporary break to perfect his technique. If he does so, there also seems to be a need to remove the mental block. That said, in all probability, this won’t happen. He would probably need to scrap through for as long as he wants to.
From an Indian perspective, with the World Cup 2015 in mind, it is imperative that he regains form and prolongs it. He has all the talent in the world, the proven ability, and most essentially, the right attitude towards the game. The positivity he brings in the side can’t be compromised with, and it will be worth observing how he goes about, if at all, with the revamp process.