Virat Kohli has been raking in all the plaudits for his stunning exploits in limited-overs international cricket this year, but Suresh Raina has been playing his part too, quietly and without fuss.
Raina doesn't have the same impressive numbers - indeed, he has just three career hundreds in 149 matches to Kohli's 12 in 89 - but batting at No.5 and No. 6 as opposed to Kohli's No. 3, he has more than pulled his weight.
Saturday's unbeaten 65, off just 45 deliveries that steered India to a spectacular five-wicket victory, was his third fifty in the last five innings. His last seven scores have been 65*, 1, 50, 12*, 51, 30* and 40*. India have won five of those seven matches, underlining the crucial role Raina has come to play as a finisher in One-Day International cricket.
"It was on July 30, 2005, that I played my first international match, against Sri Lanka in Dambulla, so it has been seven years today since my debut," Raina said on Monday. "I now have the experience of playing in so many matches. As a middle-order batsman, you sometimes get 15 overs, sometimes 20, to bat.
"I have learnt over the years how to bat with the tail-enders though luckily in the last game, I was batting with Irfan (Pathan) and he is a batsman-cum-allrounder. When I get 15-20 overs to bat, I tell myself I have to bat till the last ball. If I bat with Mahi (MS Dhoni), then I know I can play big shots because he is there at the other end. But if I am batting with the likes of Ashwin, Irfan or Zak (Zaheer Khan), I have to take as much of the strike as possible in the last three-four overs."
Raina said life at the Sports Hostel in Lucknow had steeled him for the challenges he now handles with reasonable aplomb in one-day cricket. "Though there weren't enough or good facilities at the hostel, we would get good inputs and we would learn from that," Raina said. "And we learnt that if we remain tough, we will get more chances. If we got to bat in pressure situations, we would make sure we performed. Over the years, I have learnt a lot about batting in the middle overs from Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh) and Dhoni, who both have batted really well in the middle-order. Dhoni and I have been successful as a pair while chasing."
Batting at No. 5 and No. 6, Raina hasn't had too many opportunities to score centuries - the last of his hundreds came in January 2010, 58 innings ago - so it was no surprise that, asked if he would like to bat higher up the order, he replied, "I would love to. If I get to bat up the order, I can play more overs and I can score more hundreds. I have scored only three hundreds in my career so far. I need to bat longer and score more runs so that I can come back into the Test team. But I don't really mind where I bat, whether it is four or five or six."
While Raina has made 3,641 ODI runs at 35.34, his Test record is less impressive - 710 runs in 15 matches at 29.58, with 120 on debut against Sri Lanka his only century. A perceived, sometimes pronounced, weakness against the short ball has worked against him, but Raina said he had put in plenty of work to iron out his shortcomings. "I have been working hard on the short ball and discussing my batting with (coach) Duncan (Fletcher). One of the options of playing the short ball is to duck under it but in ODIs, you have to play your shots and look to score runs.
"If you have to play Test cricket, you have to learn to get under the ball. In England, I got out once to the short ball, but I was also dismissed by Graeme Swann (the offspinner) four or five times. I know I have to do well in Test cricket. If I continue to score runs in ODI cricket, maybe I will get my chance in the Test team again."