In the aftermath of the Test debacle, the one-day series will be a massive challenge for the entire Team India. But, for someone like Suresh Raina, who has had a horror run in recent times, it could be a do-or-die situation. An ODI veteran, the left-hander has been struggling to find his consistency which was once his hallmark, as a result of which he was even dropped from the ODI side that featured in the Asia Cup. In many ways, life has come a full circle for Raina. It was in England where he first lost his place in the Test side and, subsequently, struggled in the one-dayers as well. If he looks at it positively, this is redemption time for Raina.
In spite of his vast experience in the format, Raina is expected to find things tough in English conditions. While his technique and weaknesses against the shorter ball have all but ended his Test career, the latter is threatening to stall his progress in the shorter formats as well. It is rather surprising that despite the amount of years that he has played international cricket, he has failed to find a way to deal with the rising ball -- this in spite of restrictions being in place. The bowlers have taken a while to realise where to trouble Raina, but now that they have figured things out, they are going all out for Raina's scalp.
The problem with Raina when it comes to facing the short ball is pretty straightforward if one wants to simplify the case. The southpaw hasn't worked out a way to keep the ball at bay. He doesn't have the technique to get in line of the rising ball, and thus more often than not ends up ballooning simple catches. Of course, he cannot alter his technique this late in his career, but he cannot keep just getting out by going after the short ball, as if not doing so would hurt his ego. At the same time, he cannot block the deliveries as well since scoring runs are also significant. He has to find a middleground wherein he can score runs while not being overtly risky. It's not impossible. Steve Waugh did it in Tests. Raina only needs to do it in ODIs.
Another glaring deficiency that has crept into Raina's game recently has been his affinity to get out in the 20s and 30s. Clearly, the overdose of T20 cricket has impacted his game severely. He has just not been able to concentrate after getting his eye in. On most occasions, he has been dismissed playing rash strokes against the run of play -- dismissals against the short ball included. His powers of concentration seem to wane once he spends some time at the crease, which perhaps leads to his dismissals. Considering the key position that he bats in, Raina's poor run has undoubtedly hurt India.
If Raina wants to secure his place for the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, he will have to display better application at the crease in England. A failure in England would not mean the end of the road for Raina, but it would obviously put his spot in the one-day side under further jeopardy. And, this is not something India want as they look to put together a team for next year's World Cup defence. An in-form Raina is a big asset for India. He can score crucial runs quickly, is a fast mover in the field, and a handy spinner. But, victories are not achieved on reputations. Performance matters at the end of the day.
--By A Cricket Analyst