SURESH RAINA
Caricature- Vasim Maner

Suresh Raina was an experiment that almost went wrong. At the age of 18, Raina was fast-tracked into the national cricket scene under Greg Chappell’s coaching when Chappell termed him a ‘complete package’.

He started off for India in ODIs but was duly dropped after some average returns and failed to make it to the Indian squad for the 2007 ODI World Cup. He made his Test debut after 98 ODIs, scored a century, but failed to cement his spot because of his weakness against quality swing and seam bowling. The Test format, very clearly, did not suit his style of play. Struggling to make a comeback to the Indian team, Raina could have easily been one of the ‘almost there’ men in Indian cricket history.

However, the third and the shortest format is where he truly found his true calling, which in turn managed to rejuvenate his international career. Since his IPL debut, Raina’s impact in ODIs has increased by 12%.

Who says T20 and IPL cricket is a bad thing?

AMONGST THE BEST IN THE WORLD

Suresh Raina is the highest impact Indian player in all T20s (minimum 60 matches when it comes to T20 cricket around the world, domestic and international, with a higher value to internationals against Test sides). The next highest impact Indian player in T20s is MS Dhoni, marginally behind Raina.

When it comes to only batting, he is the second-highest impact T20 batsman of all-time only after Imran Nazir.

It is interesting to note that Raina doesn’t feature in the top ten in the world when it comes to any of the individual batting parameters (Runs Tally, Strike Rate, Partnership-Building and Chasing Impact ) although his Batting Impact has a good mix of all of them.

The real differentiator between Raina and the rest though is his tournament-defining performance count (high impact performance in a knockout game leading to his team winning the tournament). Raina has produced five such performances which is the joint-highest for any batsman in T20 history (Imran Nazir, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Smith also have five each).

Vs Kings XI Punjab, Mumbai, 2014. KXIP had posted a massive 226 for 6 in their 20 overs, with Sehwag’s 58-ball 122 appearing to settle matters at half-time itself (given Sehwag’s current struggles with vision, perhaps his last great innings?). Du Plessis was out immediately and Raina walked out at 1 for 1. About 25 minutes later, Dwayne Smith was out for 7 off 11 balls, but the score was 67 at the end of the fourth over. Raina was producing the sort of command batting performance that made it almost appear a video game. In six powerplay overs, CSK had touched 100; Raina was on 87 off 25 balls. The sequence in the sixth over was this – 6, 6, 4, 4, 4nb, 4, 4 – that’s 33 runs in the over bowled by a hapless Awana, who has not quite been the same since. The first ball of the seventh over saw Raina getting run out and the plebian display that followed reduced it to a formality. Despite a bizarre strike rate of 348, this was not Raina’s highest impact T20 innings but it is the best he has perhaps ever played. Sadly, the context let him down this time.

A GIANT IN THE IPL

Almost 60% matches of Raina’s T20 career are IPL matches and he emerges as the third-highest impact batsman in the history of the tournament after Michael Hussey and David Warner (min: 30 matches).

Only three batsmen in IPL history with a higher Runs Tally Impact (proportion of runs scored) than Raina have had a higher Strike Rate Impact than him- AB de Villiers, David Warner and Chris Gayle.

Even in terms of consistency , he is the fourth-most consistent batsman in IPL history with a failure rate of only 32% (a Batting Impact of less than 1 in a game constitutes as a failure) after Faf du Plessis, Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden.

Raina, Yusuf Pathan and Kieron Pollard are the only three batsmen in IPL history to have produced two tournament-defining performances for their respective franchises, Raina did it in 2010 and 2011- the two times Chennai Super Kings won the IPL trophy. Two of Raina’s other three tournament-defining performances came in Champions League T20 in 2010 and 2014. And the most recent one in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2015-2016.

This also means Suresh Raina has produced a tournament-defining performance each and every time Chennai Super Kings have won a T20 tournament. No wonder that he is the highest impact player for Chennai Super Kings in all T20 tournaments (IPL and Champions League T20) combined.

Vs Kolkata Knight Riders, Bangalore, 2014. In the final of Champions League T20, 2014, KKR posted a formidable total of 180 batting first. CSK in reply were 9 for 1 and under pressure when Raina walked out to bat alongside Brendon McCullum. Barring an inside-edge early in his innings which went for four, Raina played a chanceless innings and dominated the chase with an unbeaten 109 off 62 balls. The next highest scorer for CSK was McCullum with 39. CSK won the match and the tournament with nine balls and eight wickets to spare. This was Raina’s highest impact batting performance in a tournament context in T20s. In an interview later, Faf du Plessis said it was the best T20 batting performance he had seen in his life.

INDIFFERENT T20I RECORD

Given his domestic T20 exploits, Raina was expected to lead India’s World T20 campaigns with his batting but he has been strangely subdued in the international format.

Raina’s Batting Impact in T20Is is almost 41% lower than his Batting Impact in domestic T20s. A major reason behind the drop is also the fact that he bats too low down the order to influence games for India as he does for Chennai Super Kings. Out of his 52 T20I innings, Raina has played only 15 innings at the number 3 position- his primary position for Chennai Super Kings. It is even more bizarre considering that out of all the positions, Raina has been the highest impact when he has played at the number 3 position for India.

Even his highest impact T20I performance came from that position when he scored 101 off 60 balls against South Africa in the 2010 T20 World Cup.

Vs South Africa, St. Lucia, 2010. India, batting first in their second group game in the T20 World Cup, lost Murali Vijay off the second ball and were 4 for 1 when Raina walked out to bat. Soon, it was 32 for 2 in the sixth over with India struggling to get a move on. Raina was treated to some hostile short-pitched bowling from the South Africans in the early part of his innings but he hung in to build an 88 runs partnership off 62 balls for the third wicket with Yuvraj Singh. Raina eventually spectacularly made up for his slow start and bludgeoned 82 off the last 38 balls that he faced. India finished with 186 for 5 off their 20 overs with Raina scoring 101 off only 60 balls. South Africa, in their chase, finished 14 runs short. This is Raina’s highest impact batting performance in T20Is.

Raina had poor back to back campaigns in the Asia Cup and World T20 in 2016 and as a consequence has moved down the batting charts and is India’s sixth-highest impact T20I batsman presently after Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Shikhar Dhawan and MS Dhoni. His hallmark as a batsman in T20Is is his ability to handle the pressure of falling wickets ( Pressure Impact ). In fact, Raina is the second-highest Pressure Impact batsman for India in T20Is after Kohli.

Suresh Raina has achieved almost everything that is to be achieved in domestic T20s but his international T20 career has been disappointing. He needs to prove his mettle for India in the format to turn into the complete package.

 

 

Soham Sarkhel

NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.