Suresh Raina mush bare his claws against New Zealand this month

After a poor show against Australia and West Indies at home and South Africa recently, southpaw Suresh has his task cut out against the New Zealanders this month

The churning that began in Indian cricket with the exclusion of senior pros like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan Singh last year carries on in 2014, and the first player to be left out of the side was Yuvraj Singh, who didn’t make the cut in the 16-member ODI squad that will begin battle in the cool climes of New Zealand in a five-match ODI series later this month.

Suresh Raina on the hop: Suresh Raina faces some pace heat during the Durban ODI against SA on December 8, 2013. Pic/AFP

It remains to be seen what the future holds for the above-mentioned stalwarts, but there’s another player in the New Zealand-bound squad whose performance will be followed closely. Yes, Suresh Raina is under pressure after a succession of indifferent performances in the year gone by, and it would be interesting to observe how he responds to this lean patch. Thirty nine, DNB, 17, DNB, 16, 28, 0, 23, 34, 14, 36 and DNB is the sequence of scores Raina has strung together since the first ODI against Australia in Pune on October 13.

They amount to 207 runs off nine innings at an average of 23.00 against the Aussies, the West Indies and South Africa. These statistics surely don’t point to anything spectacular. If anything, they suggest that it’s time Raina finds the groove, lest he meets the fate of some of his more illustrious former teammates.

Interestingly, Raina’s poor form has put paid to the Indian think-tank’s strategy wherein he was to be the man they would turn to fill the crucial No 4 slot in case of Yuvraj’s failure in the run up to the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. But this plan, which was initiated against the Australians late last year, has clearly gone haywire and skipper MS Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher have been left searching for a Plan B. “Obviously, the debate surrounding Raina’s place in the Indian squad is logical, given his indifferent form. I would like to say that he is fortunate to still be part of the XI,” former India opener Aakash Chopra told MiD DAY yesterday.

Raina in his last 12 ODIs:
Matches: 12
Innings: 9
Runs: 207
Highest: 39
Average: 23.00

“Raina’s numbers are not too impressive and he will clearly have to start scoring because the New Zealand series could prove to be a make-or-break tour for him,” he added. Chopra, however, insisted that there is no point dissecting Raina’s performance to the last shred and the only way he can still stay in contention for a place in the 2015 World Cup squad is by performing consistently over the coming months.

Try Rahane out
Chopra believes Ajinjya Rahane, who was impressive in the two Test matches against SA, should be given an extended run at No 4. “I feel Rahane should occupy that place now that he is in brilliant form. He has waited in the wings too long to be missing out on these opportunities.”

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