Indian cricketer Suresh Raina plays a shot during the second Twenty20 international cricket match between Bangladesh and India for the Nidahas Trophy tri-nation Twenty20 tournament at The R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on March 8, 2018. The Nidahas Trophy is a tri-nation Twenty20 tournament involving Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India. / AFP PHOTO / ISHARA S. KODIKARA (Photo credit should read ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

India’s Yo-Yo Fitness Test Revitalises Suresh Raina’s ODI Career

The Yo-Yo fitness test was brought into effect in mid-2016 by the then coach of India, Anil Kumble. It was lapped up by two men big on fitness: MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. Understandably it soon became the benchmark for selection. Among all their teams, India have the reasonable requirement of attaining the 16:1 mark for players to be eligible for selection.

India’s one-day squad for England was announced on 8th May and if you are Ambati Rayudu there is simply no excuse for missing the mark. You can’t be squandering opportunities like this when you are in the form of your life. You can’t be letting these opportunities go when there is a position for taking. While the pros and cons of the Yo-Yo fitness test are still being debated in the cricketing circle, it most certainly ensures the selection of fittest players in the squad. Also, when the guidelines have been there for a while now there is no point of not meeting it (ask Umar Akmal).

Suresh Raina who has himself faced the brunt of the Yo-Yo test in the past found himself on the right side on this occasion. Raina last played an ODI for India against South Africa on 25 October 2015. They say at the age of 30 cricketers reach the pinnacle of their powers, however, for Raina, 31, it’s almost as if mind has been made up that he is a closed case. He rarely comes to the mind of those who discuss the squad for the World Cup. This is despite the fact that India currently are in a big conundrum about their number four position in the batting line up. KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav couldn’t quite make the position their own for various reasons. Considering the limited time span before the World Cup, India would want to be clear about the position by the end of the England tour.

That’s where somebody like Raina comes into the mix. He averages close to 40 in ODIs played in England at a strike rate of 112. If he comes close to that figure India would be thrilled. That might not necessarily happen at number 4 but his coming good could mean that Dhoni gets to bat at number 4 and Raina could take up the finishing role from him.

But that’s the half- truth, what is also true is that Raina isn’t quite the same player he was all those years ago. He was the ultimate team man: the first one to run to the bowlers when a wicket fell, the first one to celebrate if a batsman at the other end reached his milestone, with a career strike rate of 94 and his bowling was a welcome relief to the captains. But anyone who has seen him bat in recent times will know that something is off, really off especially against quick bowling.
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While we have seen him mostly in T20s in the recent past, his tendency to back off to almost anything bowled by bowlers capable of hitting 135 kph is alarming. He has been a bonafide IPL Legend, a fine T20 player for India but for all these years we haven’t seen him back off so much like he did this year.

England may not be able to threaten him that much with their bowling but come Pakistan, South Africa, Australia he will be tested severely like has been in later half of his career. English pitches have become very flat since their side’s resurgence in ODI cricket and that might come to the rescue for Raina, but India must decide whether they want to go with a tried and tested player who was very important to the cause of the side once or the one who is going through a sustained period of self-doubt. Either way the yo-yo fitness test seems to have come to the rescue of Raina for once and another Andhra batsman might just lose his World Cup spot once again.

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