Suresh Raina’s international career seemed done and dusted a couple of seasons ago. The Indian team, under Virat Kohli, put fitness in the front and centre of their cricket. There was not going to be any leeway when it came to being in the best physical shape possible, irrespective of the talent or value to the team.
Once a benchmark of 16.1 on the Yo-Yo fitness test was decided, some big names started to feel hot under the collar. India 2011 World Cup-winning heroes Yuvraj Singh and Raina failed to pass the fitness test last year and did not get a look-in. Even a then 18-year-old Washington Sundar failed to pass the test, which kept him out of the team as well.
Rain, now 31, knew he had age on his side and was at one point one of the fittest cricketers at the international stage. So it could not have all gone down the drain. The left-handed Uttar Pradesh batsman decided to work even harder on his fitness and chronicle his workouts. His social media pages last year were flooded with videos of him hitting the gym in order to be as fit as he can.
Then in December last year Raina passed the Yo-Yo test to earn a recall to India’s T20 side. Since his return to India’s T20 team in January this year, Raina has scored 170 runs in eight innings.
But the big prize is the ODI team. Every player worth his salt in India wants an opportunity to gain a spot in the Indian team ahead of next year’s World Cup. Competition is intense and as long as players pass the fitness test, they have an opportunity especially in the middle order as at least one spot is still up for grabs.
After a fine IPL in which he scored 602 runs, it looked as it Ambati Rayudu will make the most of another opportunity at the highest level but he failed the fitness test by a considerable margin. That allowed Raina eye an ODI comeback after a gap of nearly three years; he last played an ODI in October 2015.
Raina’s comeback is a reminder that those who are willing to put in the hard yards will eventually find what they are looking for.
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