Raina may be the answer to India's middle order woes
India would be fairly justified in believing that in Suresh Raina, they have finally found the missing piece of the middle order puzzle that vexed them in the group stage of the World Cup.
Raina's activity was confined to the nets and carrying drinks before he was finally drafted in for India's last Group B match against West Indies, thanks to the policy of giving each player at least one game before the knockout stage.
Raina did not help his cause with just four runs in that match but scores of eight, 14, 30 not out, 11, 0 and 11 suggest Yusuf Pathan, the man preferred to him, had not set alight the tournament either.
So India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni chose Raina over Pathan in Thursday's quarter-final against Australia and the left-hander did not let him down by hitting 34 not out.
Raina's unbeaten 74-run partnership with Yuvraj Singh (57), the highest stand in the match, under tremendous pressure made all the difference in the see-saw quarter-final and the 24-year-old could be the answer to India's middle order woes.
"He had a few bad games but he came into the side and showed his (strong) nerve in a very crucial game," Yuvraj told reporters of his partner-in-victory.
"I think it will give a lot of confidence to him and would be a very good thing for India if he can contribute like this."
BRITTLE MIDDLE ORDER
The Indian middle order looked particularly brittle in the group stage match against England where they slumped from 305-3 to 338 all out.
Against South Africa too, they were cruising merrily at 267-1 before losing the remaining nine wickets for just 29 runs.
Raina's is a more versatile game than Pathan's one-dimensional slogging and the kind of maturity he showed against Australia should make him a certainty for Wednesday's semi-final against Pakistan.
Overall, India beat Australia with an all-round show that should assure millions of fans but the team clearly have a couple of issues to address.
Horrendous running between the wickets nearly derailed India's chase against Australia when Gautam Gambhir ran himself out after two narrow escapes, while Mahendra Singh Dhoni also featured in an almighty mix-up with Yuvraj.
"It was a bit of a mishap with Gautam. We haven't batted too much together and the running between the wickets was just out of order. I think it was my mistake and I apologise," said Yuvraj, the common character in those communication breakdowns.
In the bowling department, Munaf Patel's indifferent form should be another concern for Dhoni, more so because it adds the workload on pace spearhead Zaheer Khan.
Munaf was India's most expensive bowler against Australia and was withdrawn from the attack after bowling seven of his 10 overs.
Dhoni used as many as seven bowlers to complete the 50-over quota and he would be tempted to bring back Ashish Nehra against Pakistan.
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