'Sachin did it then, Dhoni can do it now'

Suresh Raina feels MS Dhoni, with his immense experience and ice-cool composure, can help India regain the World Cup.

“Very sorry to disappoint you guys. It was not for my girlfriend or fiancee, but the World Cup win was for Sachin Tendulkar,” Yuvraj Singh, man-of-the-tournament in India’s triumphant campaign in 2011, had stated. 

Playing in his sixth World Cup, perhaps no other player was as desperate as Tendulkar was to win the World Cup. Virat Kohli carrying the legendary batsman on his shoulders during the victory lap moments after that triumph at the Wankhede Stadium was an image that lingered for long.

Apart from raking up 482 runs to be the tournament’s second highest run-scorer, Tendulkar played a bigger role of being the team’s pillar of confidence. Suresh Raina, who essayed crucial unbeaten knocks of 34 and 36 in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively during that tournament, emphasised the need to have such mentors in the side during big events. 

“We were a bit worried after things didn’t go our way in the games against England (a tie) and South Africa (loss). But Sachin made us believe that we are capable of winning this tournament. During practice sessions, he had conversations with almost every player and pointed out areas where they can improve. This helped us regroup quickly,” Raina told DH on Tuesday. 

In the round-robin format, teams can experience fluctuating fortunes. In the current Indian squad, Raina feels Mahendra Singh Dhoni can do what Tendulkar did to the team.

“In 2011, Dhoni was the captain but Tendulkar was like a mentor to all of us. In this World Cup, Dhoni, with his immense experience, can do the same. He is a mastermind and the whole world knows it. He reads the game brilliantly. Standing behind the stumps, he understands where the bowler is going wrong and what field changes can be made. Standing in the slips, I have heard him give very useful tips to the bowlers and learnt a lot on how he understands the game,” Raina, who has scored 5615 runs from 226 ODIs, explained. 

While the Uttar Pradesh batsman feels India aren’t short of match-winners, he said they will have to get the tactics right. “Back then, we had a clutch of matchwinners in Sehwag (Virender), Sachin, Yuvraj (Singh) and Zaheer (Khan). In the current team, you can’t ask for a better match-winner than Virat Kohli.

“But the team could have had more left-handers. In 2011, there was Gauti (Gambhir) at the top, then Yuvraj and I would follow after that. Here there is one left-hander in Shikhar (Dhawan). In the middle overs, with the left-right combination, certain bowlers can be targeted. If you look at the quarterfinal and semifinal in 2011, our team had handy partnerships from left-right combinations. Apart from that, the toss will be crucial for India. India must bat first as they can defend totals thanks to an excellent bowling attack and it can get overcast in England as the day progresses,” Raina explained. 

The 32-year-old said an Indian team is a fun group and that’s the best way to handle the pressure. “Even before the semifinal against Pakistan, our dressing room was relaxed thanks to pranksters like Viru and Harbhajan (Singh). I know most of them in the current team. They are a fun group with Shikhar and Kedar Jadhav being the biggest pranksters,” Raina said. 

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