Dhoni-Raina duet keeps India revving

Late-order duo shows calm nerves

Dhoni-Raina duet keeps India revving

 There is a certain sense of inevitability to the outcome when MS Dhoni sets about a chase. And when Suresh Raina joins hands with him, it’s a double whammy for the bowling side.

Saturday’s match against Zimbabwe was just an example of how Dhoni and Raina have turned chasing into an art. Admittedly, Zimbabwe’s bowling was average, fielding was quite ordinary and the small boundaries encouraged the batsmen to take chances and go aerial. That, however, shouldn’t take anything away from the Dhoni-Raina duet that was as calculated as it was methodical.

Dhoni and Raina aren’t exactly the fire and ice combination. While Dhoni and can switch on and switch off with effortless ease, Raina needs some shepherding. Very few batsmen match his ability to pull off big shots without as much of a warning at any stage of his innings. But he tends to get carried away at times. With Dhoni constantly in his ears to rein in his attacking instincts, Raina, more often than not, has seen India home.

“You need to keep telling him every now and then to come down to third gear from fifth, because there aren't many batsmen after (he gets out),” Dhoni pointed out when asked about the chemistry between the two.

It helps that Dhoni and Raina get along famously off the field as well and that they both play for the Chennai Super Kings certainly enhances the understanding of each other’s game. The one standout feature about the two is the assuredness that they bring to their partnership. There is no sign of pressure or panic about the mounting target as they go about prodding and nudging to steal singles when the opposition will be expecting them to take chances. The left-right combination, too, doesn’t allow the bowlers to settle into a rhythm. 

“Since 2005, he's been batting at five or six for India and I've been batting just around that position,” Dhoni noted. “So when we're chasing, since we've been batting together, we're in tune with each other. Bowlers are also worried by our left-right combination. Also, he's a natural stroke-player. In any situation he plays big strokes, so I feel that eases off the pressure. He's taken up that job really well. I keep saying that batting at five is not that easy because if you're playing small teams your top order batsmen will always do well; they will score the runs.

It may so happen that in three or four matches, you may not get to bat at all, and even if you do, only in the last four-five overs. You cannot get into flow. After that if you have to bat in a high-pressure match straight away which is not easy. You cannot build momentum. But that's where experience comes - when you speak of big players, those with more than 150-200 matches, that's where the key lies. You expect that in similar situations they adapt better than somebody who's played only 25 or 30 matches,” he explained.

The running between the wickets is another plus. Both Raina and Dhoni are not only among the fittest players in the world but they are brilliant judges of runs. Where there is one run, they try to make it two and where there is none, they often steal a single. Their relaxed approach may come across as madness even as the required run rate keeps mounting but then there is a method in it.

It’s all about, Dhoni feels, breaking down the target into small units. When Dhoni linked up with Raina on Saturday, India needed 196 from 27.2 overs at 7.20 runs per over which eventually climbed up to nine runs an over when the target came to 118 off 13 overs. But the target was achieved with eight balls to spare. “I think what's important is to break the number of runs into small units,” he said.

“You may say, okay, next two or three overs let's look for 10 or 15 runs or even eight runs if someone is bowling really well. But at the same time you can't really miss out the fact that somebody like Raina, how he batted at the other end also eases up the pressure on me. And he has done it quite a few times. So I feel what is really important to chase down targets is if one is acting slightly cold, the other one has to take over, and you have to run well between the wickets.

That's the key factor. You can't always rely on the big shots. The reason being if you are batting at No 6, you know there's no batsman after you and that actually puts pressure. Overall you keep breaking it down and in turn put the pressure back on the opposition,” he explained.

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