Suresh Raina’s time had come, but he should go down as an all-time IPL great
Suresh Raina’s reputation was built on being a complete team man for his national team and Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League. The player finally finds the curtain closing on him, but he deserves to be remembered for what he was – an IPL great, writes Divy Tripathi.
A wave of nostalgia hit social media once it became certain that Raina won’t be participating in the IPL. There were some who discussed what the left-hander’s absence would mean to them, while others, such as his former teammate Irfan Pathan, felt that there could have been more to the story of a batter, who once played a key role in the Indian white-ball sides.
Still think Raina could have been pushed. We have seen some foreign players who have played IPL till 40.Raina is 35! One bad season. #MrIPL
— Irfan Pathan (@IrfanPathan) February 14, 2022
Nostalgia has its place, but the logic of success is what dictates selection calls in the cut-throat world of top-flight cricket. Over the last three years, Raina had aggregated 543 runs at an average of 21.72 and a strike-rate of 122.85 in the IPL, numbers that signified an extended period of wane for a player dubbed Mr IPL. He withdrew from IPL 2020 to be with his family, but fans were confident he’ll return to his old self in 2021. In what turned out to be his final season the following year, he scored 160 runs @ 17.78, with one fifty, his lowest aggregate in 13 seasons.
Raina had been the central figure of CSK for years, but the side could now have been looking to build a strong squad with ample new personnel, and Raina’s recent returns probably didn’t give them enough faith in his abilities to continue with the side. It might be said that Raina’s place in the side was already hanging by a thin thread that finally broke after his indifferent run last year.
All of this comes at 35, which, as Pathan pointed out was quite odd, given that several players continue to play T20 cricket even in their 40s, but somehow Raina’s career has come to a dead-end in the IPL. There are still possibilities, such as the player featuring in other leagues, but right now there seems to be little ahead for Raina in the Indian league.
When he decided to retire from the international game aged 33, it was obvious that the T20 route would be the way ahead for him. The story would continue from where it began in the 2005 Bradman T20 Cup, when the Uttar Pradesh cricketer became one of the first India cricketers to be introduced to the quick and brisk format. And Raina took to it like a fish in the water. Though he had a memorable career in ODIs and impressed on occasions in Tests, it was in T20s that Raina truly shone.
His quick-fire 30s and 40s would convert into match-defining knocks, and in the IPL, the level would further elevate. Add to that his canny off-spin, and electric fielding, and you had a player who would find the greatest appreciation in these 240 action-packed balls.
Without a doubt, he was one of the finest Indian batters in the T20 league. He has the fourth-most runs (5,528) at a strike-rate of 136.73, and was a standout performer at the number three position, where he collected 4,934 runs, the most for a batter in the league.
It was also at this position that Raina played some of the all-time great T20 knocks, including his famous 25-ball 87 at a whopping strike-rate of 348 against Kings XI Punjab [as Punjab Kings were then known] in 2014. It is still the best knock in terms of strike-rate for a minimum of 20 balls faced, in all of T20 cricket. Along with that, his all-round skills often helped his side on the field, where he collected 25 wickets at an economy rate of 7.38 and 108 catches to show.
The all-round facet was best visible in a contest against Kings XI Punjab in 2009, where Raina took a sharp catch to get Luke Pomersbach on a sluggish wicket and later returned to take the wickets of Yuvraj Singh and Brett Lee with his spin. He gave away only 17 runs for his two wickets while taking the initiative away from Punjab.
Beyond conventional statistics, that’s what Raina truly was, a selfless team man, who often let others take the limelight. He was always ready to play the supporting hand and give it all for his side, while celebrating each team moment as a personal triumph.
At this moment, it seems like his time in the IPL is up, and we’re not sure what lies ahead, but even if he decides to walk away from the game, he will do so as one of the greatest players to have featured in the league.
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