Has Suresh Raina been given too long a rope? That is an issue which has been troubling Team India for too long now and yet been ignored by one and all, at least in the team management.
The last time Raina crossed 50 was against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on August 1. In the 16 matches since, he has scored 291 runs with 39 being his highest score.
Before Saturday, Ravichandran Ashwin, who like Raina has a Grade-A BCCI contract, took an ODI wicket on December 8. But, Raina, with the experience of 189 ODIs behind him, has not been able to find his long lost form till now.
Ambati Rayudu can spend a few more tours cooling his heels in the dressing room, Stuart Binny can learn how to mix glucose perfectly in water and deliver it to teammates during the drinks break, and Yuvraj Singh can continue conducting coaching clinics for his Punjab teammates back home.
Courtesy skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Raina will continue to be part of the Indian XI and get a fifty one day. Dhoni can drop Ishant Sharma for a poor show but Raina, even if has soft tissue damage in his elbow from an injury the previous day, will play.
For all those who vouch for his all-round skills, four wickets is all Raina has to show since August.
But it wasn’t so bad for Raina earlier. After Dhoni and Virat Kohli, the 27-year-old left-hander from Ghaziabad has been the third-most prolific Indian batsmen in successful chases with one hundred and 13 half-centuries to his credit, putting him ahead of the likes of Mohammad Azharuddin and Sourav Ganguly.
"He (Raina) 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, 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.
Hopefully, he will gather plenty of confidence after this innings and carry on longer,” Dhoni had said after Raina’s 35-run knock in the second ODI in Hamilton.
The left-hander followed it up with a 31 in the tied game at Auckland.
Nobody really knows if time is indeed running out for Raina. If he’s managed 16 matches without a half-century, he might as well get many more chances with Dhoni backing him to the hilt.
The wait for a half-century will get over one day, if not in New Zealand, then certainly on the flat tracks in Bangladesh in the Asia Cup.
But, wasn’t this tour an exercise to test players for the 2015 World Cup? If yes, then will Raina, whose struggles against short bowling is common knowledge, be part of that squad? Let’s leave that for Dhoni to answer.
DON'T MISS TODAY—Cricket Photos of The Week