The Raina of 2019, though, has looked anything like the batsman with all these records. Before Chennai Super Kings' game against Delhi Capitals on Wednesday (May 1), Raina had a mere 247 runs from 12 matches. His poor form was one of the reasons for their top-order struggles.
More than the lack of runs, it was the manner of Raina's batting that was unbecoming of a star batsman of his calibre. Through the season, he has seemed to be in a dilemma on whether to attack or play sheet anchor. He has ended up doing a bit of both, and doing neither properly. His strike-rate of just over 126 is his lowest ever in IPL.
When Raina has tried to attack, he has often bordered on being irresponsible. Raina's untimely dismissals to rash strokes on quite a few occasions has cost CSK; against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede, he slashed Jason Behrendorff inside the Power Play knowing well there is a fielder at deep cover, and saw Kieron Pollard pluck a stunner. In the next match at home against Kings XI Punjab, he wildly slogged and missed a straight ball from R Ashwin, two balls after CSK had lost Faf du Plessis.
In the next match against Kolkata Knight Riders, he slogged at Sunil Narine in the fifth over to be caught. Against Mumbai in CSK's last match, when he led in MS Dhoni's absence, he slogged wildly at Hardik Pandya's first ball to fall in the fourth over.
One of the reasons for Raina unable to balance attack and defence is the visible dip in fitness. It is betrayed best by his fielding positions; for a man who Jonty Rhodes chose as the best ever fielder, for someone who has manned the boundary effortlessly throughout his career, Raina has now been reduced to fielding inside the circle. He's hardly fielded in the deep this year, while the likes of Kedar Jadhav and Ambati Rayudu have.
The lack of speed was also seen in a game in Jaipur against Rajasthan Royals, when he was run out trying a single he would have completed with ease in his earlier years.
Only twice in the season has Raina found the balance between attack and anchor, and on both occasions he has ended with match-winning half-centuries. His unbeaten 58 helped CSK chase down a tricky target in Kolkata. The second knock came on Wednesday against Delhi, when he made his highest score of the season - 59 (37).
Raina seemed to have learned from the mistake he committed against Mumbai, and was careful to not slog early on. He came in with CSK having the worst of starts, managing only 3 runs in the first three overs. Shane Watson had fallen for a nine-ball duck, and Faf du Plessis was struggling on a slow track.
Raina had to get going, but had to do so without slogging too. He did that to perfection, giving CSK the impetus. From seven runs in the first four overs, CSK scored 20 in the next two.
Du Plessis managed only 12 runs in his first 20 balls, while Raina got going briskly with four boundaries in his first eight balls. Impressively, only one was in the air - a sweep over short fine-leg to a ball down leg side. The rest were normal cricket strokes - drives and cuts without risk.
From just 53 for 1 in the first ten, Raina helped CSK go past six an over, reaching 88 for 2 in 14 overs. It was only in the 15th over that Raina took the license to charge, slamming the left-arm spinner J Suchith for two fours and a six to cross his half-century. He fell in the same over, but had already rescued and given CSK momentum by then.
More importantly, Raina seems to have found the much needed balance in his game. It's a feature that has helped him become the successful batsman he is, and is vital for CSK in the business end of the tournament.
First Published: May 1, 2019, 11:38 PM IST