Suresh Raina has always divided opinion in Indian cricket circles. Is he really the next big thing of Indian batsmanship like former coach Greg Chappell had prophesized during his reign? Or is he simply a flat-track bully who runs for cover at the first sighting of a bouncer? What nobody can deny Raina though,is his incredible success in the IPL.
For a change,however,the 26-year-old batting mainstay had started the sixth edition of the IPL on a dull note,raising mini alarms in the Chennai dressing-room. While his team had set upon a dominant winning spree,his form or lack of it seemed the only missing link for the two-time champions.
Raina,however,had shown signs of an imminent return to form with a string of decent scores,including two half-centuries,in the lead-up to his team’s clash against Kings XI Punjab at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. And on Thursday,the left-hander showed that he was well and truly back to his belligerent best,smashing an unbeaten 100 off 53 deliveries,his maiden ton in the IPL and the first by an Indian this season.
Though Punjab’s left-handed demolition force of Shaun Marsh and David Miller threatened to spoil Raina’s party by taking the game away from the hosts in pursuit of Chennai’s massive total of 186 for four,their valiant half-centuries ended up in vain.
And the Kings XI continued to live up to their reputation of being the nearly team of IPL VI,falling short by 15 runs. Marsh and Miller were as aggressive as Raina was during their stay in the middle and their 95-run stand off just 52 balls led to a few furrowed brows in the CSK camp. But eventually Dwayne Bravo kept his nerve to snare three wickets in the final over with Punjab requiring 17,to fashion Chennai’s seventh win on the trot in IPL VI.
The first half of the evening though belonged entirely to Raina and his powerful stroke-play. Walking in to bat after the Chennai openers had gotten off to a relatively slow start,Raina made the most of the visitors’ tactics of utilising spin against him in the early going by getting his eye in.
He then unleashed an assault on the Punjab pacers later in the innings,launching them over the mid-wicket and long-off boundaries with nonchalant ease. Having hit six sixes and seven fours,Raina completed his ton off the final delivery in Chennai’s innings with a single,and then celebrated his feat in style by first applauding himself and then the faithful crowd.
Day to remember
Interestingly,Raina had scored his maiden international T20 century on the same day three years ago at the Beausejour Stadium in St Lucia against a powerful South African bowling attack.
If that’s not enough,India had even set the same target as Chennai for their opponents during that World T20 league encounter. The Proteas had fallen 15 runs short of the total. Here,Punjab too had lost by the same margin and were unable to stop the indomitable kings from strengthening their strangehold on the top spot.