Not that I have anything against Raina, no.
Well, apart from the fact that he doesn’t know what a backfoot is. You’d think he’d have it figured out by now, given all the cricket he’s played. Or knows he is going to play in the years to come. But nope. A ball that is pitched more than three centimeters away from his big toe on the right foot still has Chennai Super King’s best batsman rearing like a young colt, before prancing away skittishly towards the legside. He then gives a reassuring grin to whichever batsman is at the other end (who’s going through the mental equivalent of an epic facepalm moment) and gets ready to take guard again.
If the bowler is a big old meanie, you can count on the process being repeated. If the bowler is a gnarled old oak tree, such as say, oh, Kallis, count on a delivery slanting away, pitched on the fuller side, and a little wide of the perfect drive. Young Raina, with more Fevicol slathered on the soles of his shoes than was produced in all of India last year, swishes at at stylishly, and makes his way back to the pavilion.
That wasn’t me describing what happened at Centurion. That was me telling you what is going to happen four more times in this series.
Again, like I said, I have nothing at all against Raina. He’s a fantastic batsman when it comes to limited overs matches, possibly one of the best India has going around at the moment. And I mean all of that – sincerely.
I just can’t picture him facing up to a hostile bowling attack in a Test match; not on the evidence available with us thus far. Holding or Roberts would probably refuse to bowl to him out of pity, while Marshall would probably have had a tough time keeping a straight face.
So, and here’s what I wanted to say before I got started on that diatribe, why not get Pujara in? Sure, we’ve seen him only the one time, but he did acquit himself rather well back then, plus – and here’s the clincher – he can’t do any worse than Raina, see?
Plus, I distinctly remember Pujara playing a couple of shots off the backfoot to the medium pacers in that Bangalore Test, and that’s two more than Raina’s managed since 2006. It’s time for a change, I tell you.
And on a somewhat related note, may I be permitted to snort derisively in Ian Chappell’s direction? He had suggested that the time had come for another player to don the No. 3 mantle for India, and that Dravid should be put out to pasture. Well, Mr. Aren’t-You-The-Guy-Who-Suggested-Sachin-Should-Retire-In-2007, on the basis of the batting seen on this tour so far, we’ll take our 35 year olds, and thank you very much.
They may be a trifle unfleet on the third run, and they may not dive quite as acrobatically as the young colts, but I’ll have you know, Mr. Chappell, about a quality they possess that the colts don’t.
It’s called a backfoot.