Can Suresh Raina prove his worth again?

Suresh Raina must be thanking his stars today. When the squad for the limited overs team to England was announced earlier this month, he had no place in it. That was a huge dent in Raina’s future as the left-handed batsman has been striving hard to make a return to the Indian team. Dwindling form and fitness issues have resulted in Raina being in and out of the team and not being considered for selection, especially in ODIs.

Raina’s form in the recent IPL too wasn’t that great and it felt certain that making a return to Team India would be very difficult for him. Especially after Ambati Raydu, who was selected ahead of him for the England tour, had displayed incredible form in the IPL. Unfortunately, however, Rayudu failed a fitness test and has therefore been dropped from the squad touring England. And Raina has been called back in his place. Now this presents a huge opportunity for the left-hander to prove his worth and secure his place in the Indian limited overs team for the 2019 World Cup next year.

The good news is that Raina has fared pretty well in England in the past as compared to other overseas destinations. Raina also has the experience of 223 ODIs with him which can help the currently struggling Indian middle-order. What might be a concern is that Raina hasn't played an ODI since October 2015. Back then he was dropped due to poor form and since that period Raina has been erratic. He was selected in the T20I series against South Africa earlier this year where he failed to impress. Even in IPL 2018, he wasn’t his usual confident and free-flowing self. These are some issues that Raina would need to address before embarking on that tour to England. Thankfully, he has worked hard on his fitness and looks fit and sharp. Moreover, the pitches in England for limited overs cricket are known to be flat and hard. These would help Raina get back in the groove perfectly.

One must not forget that before MS Dhoni became the remarkable finisher for India, it was Suresh Raina who used to be perfect for that role. Even today, Raina is just 31 years of age. He has a lot of time on his hands and India badly needs a bold lower middle-order batsman who can start striking cleanly from the word go. Over the past couple of years, Team India has struggled in finishing games because their lower middle-order batsmen have lacked the punch. Raina can fill that gap.

Raina is a clean striker and does not hesitate in taking the bowlers on from the word go. If he can find some form in the upcoming England tour it can be a massive boost for the Indian team. After all, the ICC World Cup 2019 would take place in England and a good performance by the experienced Raina in the ODIs and T20is would go a long way in establishing him for the future and giving Virat Kohli a genuine match-winner down the order. What also helps is that Raina can turn his arm over for a few overs and is a very decent spinner. He provides that extra cushion to the team and hence is of immense value. These traits will certainly be considered if Raina is in form during the World Cup 2019 selection. Here is hoping that the talented Suresh Raina is able to find his touch in the upcoming England tour and goes to become an integral part of Team India’s limited overs setup once again.

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