On August 15, 2020, Suresh Raina declared his retirement from the International cricket. It’s been three years since that momentous decision, yet the Indian cricket team continues to grapple with the challenge of filling the void he left behind.
Throughout his tenure as an international cricketer, Raina emerged as a pivotal force in Team India’s limited-overs setup. Positioned in the middle order, he consistently delivered crucial runs when needed the most. His adeptness at crafting significant innings during top-order collapses and his capacity to gracefully conclude an innings with timely cameos were defining attributes of his gameplay.
Raina’s multifaceted contributions extended beyond his batting prowess. His off-spin bowling and exceptional fielding capabilities further enhanced his standing. He epitomized a well-rounded player who added substantial equilibrium to the team’s composition.
A notable presence in India’s roster, Raina was an integral part of the victorious campaigns in the ICC World Cup of 2011 and the ICC Champions Trophy of 2013. His final appearance in international cricket for India dates back to 2018.
In their quest to unearth a comparable talent, selectors have experimented with several all-round prospects from the IPL and domestic cricket over the past six to seven years. The most recent contender in this pursuit is Tilak Varma, who marked his debut against the West Indies and exhibited a promising initiation to his career, reminiscent of Suresh Raina’s early days.
While Tilak is seen as a potential heir to Suresh Raina’s legacy, it’s worth revisiting three individuals who were evaluated by the Indian cricket fraternity before him. Regrettably, these players did not have ample opportunities to showcase their abilities on the international stage.
#1 Gurkeerat Singh Mann
Gurkeerat Singh Mann, much like Raina, possesses the qualities of a middle-order batsman, a spinner, and a remarkable fielder. His emergence on the scene was highlighted during his tenure with the Punjab Kings in the IPL. His notable performances in domestic cricket paved the way for his inaugural appearance in the
Indian cricket team during an away ODI series against Australia in 2016. During this series, he participated in three ODIs, managing to accumulate 13 runs across three innings. Although Singh’s chances to showcase his batting skills were limited in the first and third ODIs of his debut, the second match presented an occasion for him to potentially become a match-winner.
However, during that particular game, he was dismissed for a mere five runs off six deliveries, batting at a crucial juncture with the team’s score at 277/3 in pursuit of a target of 349. The outcome didn’t favor India, as they fell short by 25 runs.
Subsequent to this series, Gurkeerat Singh Mann did not receive further opportunities to represent India. It’s conceivable that providing him with another chance, perhaps during a home series, could have been considered by the team management.
#2 Vijay Shankar
Vijay Shankar is a versatile cricketer known for his middle-order batting, medium-pace bowling abilities, and commendable fielding skills. His unexpected inclusion in India’s 2019 Cricket World Cup squad raised eyebrows.
Debuting in ODIs during 2019, Shankar featured in a total of 12 matches that year. Across eight innings, he accumulated 223 runs, boasting an average of 31.86 and a strike rate of 90.65. Notably, he also contributed with his medium-paced bowling, claiming four wickets.
Unfortunately, his journey in the 2019 Cricket World Cup was curtailed due to an injury, preventing him from participating further. Regrettably, Shankar’s time in ODI cricket concluded after that, as he never made another appearance in the format..
#3 Nitish Rana
Nitish Rana mirrors Suresh Raina’s profile as a southpaw positioned in the middle-order batting slot and a right-arm off-spinner. In 2021, Rana stepped onto the international stage with his ODI and T20I debuts against Sri Lanka. Across the three matches during that series, he managed a total of 22 runs with the bat and remained wicketless in the bowling department.
Having established himself as a game-changer in the IPL, Rana’s performance drew a supportive fan base advocating for more opportunities to demonstrate his abilities. Curiously, despite his impactful outings for the Kolkata Knight Riders, Rana is yet to secure a recall to the Indian squad, leaving many puzzled by the absence of his return to the national setup.