Did Suresh Raina retire too early?
Suresh Raina, the T20 superstar.
Cricket fans all around the world were hit with a piece of disheartening news on the eve of India’s Independence Day as two of India’s all-time greats, the former captain MS Dhoni and his deputy in CSK Suresh Raina announced their retirement from the international arena through their Instagram account.
While Dhoni’s decision was predictable to a certain extent, considering his age and the postponement of the T20 World Cup, Raina’s decision took everyone by surprise. Currently aged 33, Suresh Raina is still at his prime in terms of T20 performance.
Fans and cricket pundits from all around the world still believe that he has a lot more to offer to the game in its shortest format. But now that he has retired from international cricket, where should he ideally showcase his talent?
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There is no question about his availability for the IPL. But, what about the rest of the 10 months in the sporting calendar. Surely, the competition in the domestic T20 tournament in India is below par to the caliber that Suresh Raina possesses. This points the fingers to the most suitable and ideal option for Raina, global Franchise T20 tournaments.
The rising popularity of T20 Franchise cricket
Like it or not, cricket is slowly following the footsteps of Football. Independent nation run leagues are now taking up a bulk of the sporting calendar in comparison to international bilateral matches. The popularity of the T20 format and the grant success of the IPL has forced the cricketing nations around the world to come up with their own independent franchise T20 tournaments. All countries are after a slice of the cake.
The Big Bash. The Caribbean Premier League. A Pakistan Super League. The list goes on. Bangladesh Premier League, Mzansi Super League, Vitality Blast and the Hundred are all huge tournaments. They are all products of the respective Board’s initiative to put up an independent league of their own to compete with the IPL standards.
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These leagues which include a mix of domestic, overseas, and Under-19 players has helped immensely in the development of cricket in respective countries. One of the prime examples of this can be seen through the rise of Bangladesh cricket in recent years.
But despite the rising quality in these tournaments, they all are still way behind the IPL in terms of popularity. And the one prime reason for that is the absence of ‘Indian Players’. This is where an early retired Suresh Raina can come in.
Is T20 Franchise cricket the way forward for Suresh Raina?
If the BCCI can provide a NOC to retired players like Raina, allowing themselves to play in these Franchise T20 leagues around the world, it will be a win-win situation for both parties. They have been reluctant to do so though, in the past.
For players like him, it would provide a better competitive platform to showcase their talents in the non-IPL month. Whereas for the respective leagues it would provide an opportunity to break out into the much wider ‘Indian audience’. As a result, help in gaining popular attention for their leagues on the back of these popular Indian stars.
One prime example of this is the popular attention that the ‘Global T20 League’ held in Canada recieved in India. This, due to the presence of Indian icon Yuvraj Singh.
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How The BCCI Can Help?
Many Indian players, including the retired and non-retired domestic T20 specialists, had been pleading to the BCCI, to give them a NOC. This will help them showcase their talents in these T20 or T10 leagues around the world.
Even Raina had once publically raised his request for the same, during a live Instagram chat session with his former teammate Irfan Pathan.
But the BCCI is still holding onto their strict policy, which prevents any non-retired or players with IPL contracts to sign themselves up for these T20 tournaments.
As of now the Indian players who have played their trade in these tournaments which include the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Manpreet Gony and Pravin Tambe have either been retired or have had their IPL contract terminated.
Is Suresh Raina the greatest number 3 batsman in T20 cricket?
If this ideal situation happens to be a reality, then the next most obvious question would be ‘How well does Suresh Raina fit into those foreign leagues?’
The answer is, if there was any one Indian cricketer, who is well qualified to kick start this ‘T20 freelancer’ trend in India, it obviously has to be Suresh Raina. With 6776 runs from 236 innings, Raina stands way ahead of his competitors in the list of highest run-getters for a number three batsmen in T20 cricket.
Indian captain Virat Kohli finds himself second in this list with 4824 runs at number three position. He falls almost 2000 runs behind Raina in this illustrious list.
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To add to that, he has scored 41 thirty plus scores while batting at number three position. Kevin Pietersen with 32 thirty plus scores falls second to him in that list. With 620 fours and 252 sixes, he stands well ahead of others in the boundary count in this most important batting position in T20 cricket.
Numbers Don’t Tell The Whole Story
And if you think the value he brings to a T20 team can be summed up by these mere numbers, you are again mistaken. Even at this age of 33, Suresh Raina is one of the safest fielders in world cricket. Let it be slips or anywhere in the infield, if Raina is stationed there, then you very well know that it’s quite impossible to score through that region.
This all-round package that he offers deserves to be showcased across the world through these franchise T20 leagues. In turn thus will benefit the game in the long run. And the only thing that prevents this from happening is the strict rule of the BCCI.
Will the BCCI make any changes to this rule considering Raina’s age? It will be up to them to decide.
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