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In homecoming, Raina seeks to kickstart revival
DULEEP TROPHY, 2017
Raina, like many, is still battling for a place back in the Indian side. © Getty
On Monday evening, as Suresh Raina was travelling from Lucknow to Kanpur, one of the tyres of the car he was driving burst. He still attempted to reach his destination. But much before that, the tyre burst had left him stranded with a few others. It wasn't a big deal, really. He called the police, arranged a private vehicle and got to the team hotel. All was good; but all of it, only till he switched the news channels the next morning to see flashes of 'Suresh Raina met with a serious accident' on the tickers.
It was just a few days ago that he had come out of all the negative thoughts that had been creeping into into his mind for weeks. Not only was it affecting his cricket, but also had left him emotionally low. But after a text message and a meeting with Sachin Tendulkar, all was hunky-dory and he has walked to Duleep Trophy not only a fitter and leaner individual, but also one with renewed positive energy.
There is a lot Suresh Raina has achieved. He has won a world cup, played over 200 international matches, and even amidst a sea of top fringe India players, he remains the fan favourite for photo-ops. Yet, you would wonder if he has achieved all that he had promised. Once a blue-eyed boy of Greg Chappell, Raina still has a lot of fulfil even after 12 years of international cricket. Like many, he is still battling for a place back in the Indian side.
Duleep Trophy is no more that ground where good performances will guarantee a place in the national side. Yet, there is hope. And the hope to renew a sliding career rests where it all started - in his home ground, Green Park, where India Blue will be playing both their matches, starting Wednesday(September 13). He will be leading the side, and he would like to do so by example.
Less than 24 hours into the game, selection chaos left Raina with little clue as to who the players are going to be. What he does know, however, is that they will be up against India Red, who put up a dominant display in the tournament opener against India Green. Raina, however, chose to look at the positive side for his team.
"In one way, if you go to see, it's good for us. We've had rest, while they are coming directly off a four-day match. Also, since both the matches will be played in Kanpur, we will be better accustomed to the conditions."
The replacements were officially announced a couple of hours after Raina addressed the press. Chhattisgarh pacer Pankaj Rao has been called in for Ishant Sharma, while Tamil Nadu batsman Kaushik Gandhi has been shifted to India Green. The rest of the squad remains the same for him to work with.
India Red, on the other hand, will be without all-rounder K Gowtham, whose exploits in the first game shifted the balance dramatically in favour of the side.
Basil Thampi and Prithvi Shaw, who were in the reserves in the opening game could get a look in. Left-arm spinner Vijay Gohil, who has come in for Gowtham, and Mumbai opener Akhil Herwadkar, who has replaced Abhinav Mukund, could also be tested.
Given the massive margin of victory in the opening encounter, it would take quite something for India Red to not find a place in the final. A draw in either of the next two matches would seal a place for them. Thus, it wouldn't be a bad idea for them to experiment ahead of the final.
While Gohil could find a direct entry into the Playing XI, Kaul, who had a decent outing despite the challenges, might have to sit out to accommodate the Kerala pacer. Both the openers, including Priyank Panchal, who scored two centuries in the previous game, will have to make way if they try to bring in the Mumbai duo of Shaw and Herwadkar.
The selection will be quite a headache for Karthik and the team management. They would want to use the opportunity to give a chance to the players on the bench, but dropping the likes of the in-form Panchal or Kaul would seem unfair.
The conditions would be quite different compared to what it was in Lucknow. Karthik would be well aware that his team wasn't tested to its limits because skewed team balance not only put India Green on the defensive very early, but also allowed India Red to get on top. It will be interesting to see if he manages to continue with his aggressive tactics in Raina's territory as well.
India Red:Gahlaut Rahul Singh, Priyank Panchal, Sudip Chatterjee, Ishank Jaggi, Dinesh Karthik (c), Rishabh Pant, Baba Indrajith, Vijay Gohil, Karn Sharma, Basil Thampi, Ashok Dinda, Chama Milind, Prithvi Shaw, Siddarth Kaul, Akhil Herwadkar
India Blue: Suresh Raina (c), Samit Gohel, Srikar Bharat, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Manoj Tiwary, Deepak Hooda, Vijay Shankar, Ishan Kishan, Jayant Yadav, Bhargav Bhatt, Pankaj Rao, Ankit Rajpoot, Sagun Kamat, Jaydev Unadkat
India Red vs India Blue, 2nd Match Duleep Trophy, 2017FROM AROUND THE WEB