Suresh Raina is trying too hard to hit his favourite shot over long on or mid-wicket, writes Amol Muzumdar
Amidst the twin retirements of Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag, there is a series to be won against the Proteas. The South Africans have been thoroughly professional in their approach. The win at Rajkot ticked all the required boxes. The game was a bit different than a usual, modern-day one-day international that we are accustomed to. It took me back to the 1990s.
Suresh Raina during a match against Bangladesh 'A' in Bangalore last month. Pic/PTI
The scores reflected the slowness in the wicket which restricted the free flowing 21st century batsmen. Quinton de Kock just proved why the South Africans rate him so highly. The baby-faced left-hander carried the burden on his wide shoulders admirably.
The South Africans assessed the wicket better than the Indians and knew anything around 275 was a good enough score to defend. And defend they did with some excellent planning and execution. What has been striking for me about them is that inspite of being outplayed at times, they don't lose their sight for a win. They keep coming at you till they find that slight opening which they can magnify. These are traits of yesteryear giant teams.
South Africa got a foot in the door with Rohit Sharma's dismissal and then broke the door open by claiming Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, and Ajinkya Rahane in quick time. As mentioned in my earlier column, there is a clear plan to bowl short to the Indian batsmen in the death overs.
Raina has been a standout disappointment so far. The stylish left-hander is struggling to find form and the only solace he can find is that fact that these things happen to the best of players. All he has to do is spend some quality time in the centre.
He's trying too hard to hit his favourite shot which happens to be over long on or mid-wicket. It gets him going. Selecting the right ball is key to good execution. Ball selection has been Raina's problem. Imran Tahir in particular has been clever enough to bowl googlies outside off stump. Ball selection is the most basic thing you learn and when you hit bad form, you ought to go back to the basics.
Tahir as predicted by the master (Sachin Tendulkar) has been the cornerstone of South Africa's success. His control and 'jigar' to bowl under pressure has been the hallmark of his bowling. There are some pundits who have been taking pot shots about India's batting order.
All I would say is that the Indian team has enough support staff who know a thing or two about international cricket. Too much analysis leads to paralysis! A little bit of turn in Chennai will not just excite India's spinners, but would also put bring a smile on Dhoni's face. It's his den. It's 'whistle podu' time!
The number of runs Suresh Raina has scored in the first three ODIs against SA
0 vs South Africa, OD I at Rajkot
0 vs South Africa, ODI at Indore
3 vs South Africa, ODI at Kanpur
22 vs South Africa, T20I at Cuttack
14 vs South Africa, T20I at Dharamsala