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Raina gets golden opportunity to press for Test berth

By Harish Kotian
October 14, 2014 17:30 IST
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Suresh Raina cuts a delivery during Day 5 of the first Test between England and India at Lord’s on July 25, 2011. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Uttar Pradesh all-rounder Suresh Raina is one of India's most consistent performers in limited-overs cricket but has failed to make a mark in the Test format. Since making his debut in 2010, the 27-year-old figured in only 17 Tests, scoring 768 runs, including seven fifties and a century, in 17 matches, at an average of 28.

Suresh Raina was presented a golden opportunity to force his way back into the Test squad after being named captain of the Board President's XI, which will play the West Indies in a three-day warm-up match ahead of the Test series that follows the ongoing One-day internationals.

The Uttar Pradesh all-rounder is one of India's most consistent performers in limited-overs cricket but has failed to make a mark in the Test format.

Since making his debut in 2010, the 27-year-old figured in only 17 Tests, scoring 768 runs, including seven fifties and a century, in 17 matches, at an average of 28.

The left-hander last figured in the Test team in August 2012, against New Zealand in Bangalore. He scored 50 against the Kiwis, but just two fifties in his last 12 innings meant that the selectors had no option but drop him.

His inconsistent showing with the bat coupled with a weakness against the short delivery meant that he was never a serious contender when the team travelled abroad.

However, following his exploits with the bat for Chennai Super Kings in the Champions League T20 and ODI series in England, India's team director, Ravi Shastri, gave him a lifeline, saying he would do everything possible to get him back in the Test squad.

‘The more I see him play, he is brilliant to watch. It will be my endeavour really to do something that will get him back into the Indian Test match team. He is a class act,’ Shastri said.

Rohit Sharma, who missed the ODI series because of an injury, was also included in the President’s XI so that he can prove his credentials after twin failures in England in the only opportunity he got during the five-Test series, which India lost 1-3.

Interestingly, two of India's best young openers in domestic cricket – Karnataka’s K L Rahul and Jiwanjot Singh of Punjab -- also figure in the 14-member squad for the practice match, to be played in Kanpur from October 25 to 27.

Rahul, 22, was the second highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy last season with 1033 runs in 10 matches, at an average of 68, while the 23-year-old Jiwanjot scored 802 runs in the same number of matches.

Uttar Pradesh left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who is in the ODI squad, will also get his first taste of three-day cricket at the senior level.

Pacers Pankaj Singh and Ishwar Pandey, both of whom were part of the Test squad in England, are the two frontline pacers along with the young Jasprit Bumrah of Gujarat.

Manoj Tiwary will also be keen to capture the attention of the selectors after being in contention for the last few years, as will his Bengal team mate and India reserve wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, who will be looking to retain his place in the senior squad.

Jammu and Kashmir off-spinner Parveez Rasool gets another opportunity to showcase his potential as does leg-spinner Karn Sharma, though it will be interesting to see if the hosts opt to play with two spinners or three.

Karun Nair made a name in the IPL, having scored 330 runs at a strike-rate of 142.24 for Rajasthan Royals after a good season with the bat for Karnataka, scoring 494 runs in six games in the Ranji Trophy. However, it looks unlikely that he will find a place in the playing eleven.

Board President’s squad: Suresh Raina (captain), Jiwanjot Singh, KL Rahul, Naman Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, Karun Nair, Parvez Rasool, Pankaj Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Jasprit Bumrah, Karn Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav.

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