India have finally won a match in England after a month of horrifying defeats in the Test series. The clothing is now colorful, the ball is white and India look a different side - perhaps a good illustration of why cricket is more a mental game than a physical one.
India won the second One-Day International by 133 runs and this victory came largely because of Suresh Raina scoring a brilliant century under pressure. Raina has been a part of the Indian team for almost nine years but has surprisingly only scored four centuries in ODI cricket.
His performance graph has always been inconsistent. He has been in the team due to his outstanding fielding skills and ability to score 30-40 runs whenever required lower down the order. He did make a century on Test debut for India but could not continue in the Test side because of his weak defensive technique.
Raina did not get many opportunities to bat for long periods when he started his career because of senior players doing well at the top order. Now he is the most senior player after MS Dhoni and has added responsibility because he comes to bat a bit up the order at number five. He has so far responded well to the added pressure.
Raina is a player who generally likes to loft the ball and we very rarely see him hitting a boundary all along the ground. The innings which he played yesterday was similar.
He targeted the on-side boundary and always looked to play his strokes with full strength. He never went half-hearted at any stroke. Some of the previous dismissals of Raina were due to his habit of checking the shot and not powering through it.
Raina has a major problem when it comes to facing short deliveries. The England bowlers did target him with some short-pitched stuff but he looked ready for it and pulled most of the deliveries towards mid-wicket by rolling his wrists.
The important thing was that he came forward to the bouncers and never got stuck on the crease. That happened because of the confidence he gained by hitting boundaries whenever the ball was pitched up on his pads.
Raina showed that he is at his best when he attacks. He has now realised that it is better to play to his strengths rather than experimenting too much. Throughout his innings he played the ball on merit and never tried hitting a leg-side ball towards the off-side.
Raina needs to continue his form. With the World Cup coming up in six months he needs to work harder. Pitches in Australia will have more bounce so it is important to keep this in mind.
Therefore, he should now put a price on his wicket by avoiding reckless strokes. His success in the coming months will depend on how he does when India chases. Batting second is always tricky overseas.
For now though, Raina has given some hope to the Indian cricket fans. He will surely remember this century for years to come and the fans hope that in the coming matches they get to see more of his heroics with the bat.
© Cricket World 2014