When India struggled under the most trying circumstances, a man of not-so-towering stature bailed them out like a pro. Probably the innings which he played wasn’t boisterous centuries or phenomenal blitzkriegs but they were more of an innings-sustainer, a role of an anchor that held the team together when the big guns failed.
That was the responsibility which was pinned on the medium-built shoulders of Suresh Raina. One of the most selfless cricketers to have ever played the game, his joys and exhilarations rested in the team’s cause. Always being outshined by others despite putting phenomenal knocks, Raina’s numbers were extremely enviable. They remained a burning testimony to the fact that this lad hailing all the way from Uttar Pradesh was one of the most underrated cricketers we have ever seen.
We will look at five features of Raina’s vignette that would substantiate the fact that he was one of the most underrated cricketers India ever had in their ranks.
- Always stayed under the shadow of Yuvraj and Kohli
There were apparently two roles that Raina was the most comfortable in. One of them was the number 3 which was honed into perfection while his playing stint at Chennai and the other was a destructive hitter of the ball at any part of the innings. The first went to Kohli as the Delhi-based lad was a highly talented and potential lad who drew considerable fanfare towards himself with a few exquisite strokes and a couple of wondrous innings.
The second option that Raina had was gobbled up by Yuvraj Singh as the Punjab-based southpaw was the synonym of destruction with the bat. This threw Raina in a conundrum as finding a perfect spot for him to bat turned into a challenge.
Though the odds were stacked up against him, Raina still managed to knock the cherry around considerably thereby going unnoticed, despite playing a gem of knocks for the nation.
His first Test century on his debut was towered by Sachin’s double century which pretty much sums up the story of Raina’s life.
- One of the best fielders of the side but when he touched his peak, there were already too many contenders
Had he been in the Saurav era where there was a dearth of good fielders in the Indian squad, with Kaid and Yuvraj being the only notable names, he would have established himself as one of the most phenomenal fielders of all time. Unfortunately, his introduction to the team happened under the leadership of Rahul Dravid, a phase where already talented fielders have started making their ways to the national team.
He finally entered the golden phase of Indian fielding which exemplified top-notch agility and acrobatics on the field, thereby shadowing his skills of brilliant fielding from the world.
- One of the best all-rounders but once against lost his plot to a soaring Yuvraj
Once Dhoni took over the reins of the national squad, his primary weapon in being an all-rounder was Yuvraj Singh. Undoubtedly he was the best who played a crucial role in lifting two World Cups, but all these heroics played as a veil to Raina’s ability to being one of the most talented all-rounders.
Much to his dismay, Yuvraj was going through one of the best phases of his life and that probably also spelt the end of Raina’s all-round ability with Kedhar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya shortly coming in.
- Raina was a leader but India always had talented captains in the last decade
He has led Chennai Super Kings in IPL that was a blend of foreigners and talented Indians and also played as India’s captain in a few selected matches. Though the records aren’t pretty sublime, it was evident that the leadership skills which were housed by Raina were nothing short of great. Unfortunately the opportunities e extremely limited for this southpaw.
With Dhoni and Kohli rallying Indian for the major tournaments, it would have been inevitable that his captaincy ability will always remain under the wraps.
- The figures are a burning example of why Raina was a star in the making
There were only ten players who managed to win more Man of the Match awards than Raina, playing ODI cricket for India. Raina held 12 M.O.M’s under his name. Only 11 Indian cricketers have played more matches than his 226 appearances. Only 10 Indians have managed to score more than his 5615 runs in ODI’s. His average of 35 and strike rate of 94 was better than India’s star of the World Cups, Yuvraj Singh.
Despite bragging about such scintillating figures, Raina still remained under the shadows of those great Indian cricketers who came and went, sporting that exuberant smile that left millions disarmed.