India's new Mr Dependable

It is essential to fulfill the dreams seniors have for me, says Suresh Raina

India's new Mr Dependable

Himself a destroyer of many a bowling attack, Yuvraj knows a thing or two about playing big shots. Though it wasn’t quite the mirror image of the Punjab batsman -- Yuvraj can be a lot more attractive when on song -- traces of his style were evident. Powerful and precise, Raina’s strokes left the Protean bowlers numb. The 23-year-old has been the scourge of bowlers for sometime now and if Sunday’s match-winning 101 is anything to go by, Raina appears primed to take his game to the next level.  

“It has been a good year so far, by the grace of God,” noted Raina after his century. The Uttar Pradesh batsman brought up his century with a six off Albie Morkel, and in doing so, became only the third batsman in international cricket to reach the three-figure mark in T20 cricket. Only West Indian skipper Chris Gayle (against South Africa in 2007) and New Zealand batsman Brendon McCullum (against Australia early this year) have achieved that milestone. 

It was in this competition – the World T20 – that Raina’s fortunes spiraled south after his vulnerability against the short-pitched delivery was exposed. Teams like the West Indies and England peppered him with bouncers and Raina had few tricks up his sleeve to counter them. The youngster wasn’t convincing against the few that were dug in short on Sunday, but he wasn’t all at sea either. That’s what confidence can do to a batsman.

The pitch wasn’t exactly conducive for playing big shots and the boundary was a lot longer than at most venues back home. But Raina, with loads of runs in IPL III, trusted his instincts once he got the measure of the conditions. “I always go with a positive mindset and that’s what helps me play like this,” Raina pointed out.
In five years of international cricket, Raina has seen many ups and downs but no one has doubted his talent. During the Rahul Dravid-Greg Chappell regime, he was marked for bigger things but somewhere along the line, he lost it. However, the faith successive captains and seniors have shown wasn’t lost on him.

“Senior players like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul have supported me throughout. I’ve played five years of international cricket and it’s important to fulfill the dreams they have had for me,” he remarked. 

Raina also believes he is a more mature batsman now, having gone through the domestic grind while out of the national squad. “I played a lot of domestic cricket in the last couple of years. Initially, in international cricket, I was getting out in the 30s and 40s, not converting them into big scores. I played a lot of cricket over the last two years and have learnt a lot during this period. It is important to improve with each and every game,” he offered.

Obviously, the captain’s role in boosting a player’s morale is very crucial, and Raina has been lucky to have a leader in Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Raina has been one of Dhoni’s go-to men, and it’s been a trust well-invested. Though Raina has batted at various positions under Dhoni, be it for India or for Chennai Super Kings, he has often got to bat at number three and more often than not, he has made the best use of the opportunity.

It hardly came as a surprise when Raina credited his skipper for his success. “Mahi helped me a lot. Both in the Asia Cup and in IPL, I have been batting at the slot (number three). Mahi told me before coming here that I would be batting at three, adding ‘Continue to perform as you did in the IPL’.”
It was in the World T20 that Raina was pilloried for his inadequacies against the rising ball. It’s only fair that he buries those ghosts at the very same stage.
DH News Service

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