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CRICKET Suresh Raina ready for a fresh guard

‘Being a permanent fixture of Test team is my ultimate dream’

By Gautam Bhattacharyya, Sports Editor
July 10, 2012
Image Credit: AP

Dubai: As a new season is round the corner for Indian cricket team, Suresh Raina is ready to take a fresh guard. The last season had been bit of a mixed bag for this young veteran, but Raina is hopeful that 2012-2013 may see that changing altogether.

It’s not every time that the Indian team has the luxury of a nearly three-month break between seasons, but it’s time to pack the bags again for the Sri Lanka tour where they will be playing five One-Day Internationals and two T-20 games. Dhoni & co will, of course, be going back to the island nation in a month’s time for the Twenty-20 World Cup — an event they had never been able to replicate their magic of 2007.

Asked about their chances this time, Raina told Gulf News in an exclusive interview from India: “As a unit, we are very strong. We’re a well-rounded team and I think we have as good a chance as any. The number of times we’ve played in Sri Lanka in the past few years practically makes it our backyard. We’ve conquered the world of cricket in one World Cup, now it’s time to take on the next.”

The last time Raina stepped onto the field for a competitive match was for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL final against Kolkata Knight Riders on May 27, a match which saw their stranglehold on the tournament broken. How did he make use of this break since then? “I have been training every day, hitting the gym, net sessions, badminton — you name it. My nature is such that I can’t still and relax. I need to play a sport or go to the gym or at least go a for nice long walk near my house,” he says.

Asked if he has set any personal goals for himself in the new season, Raina said: “My goal is the same as it’s always been. I am going to train, work on my weaknesses with my coaches and give hundred per cent every time I step out in the middle.”

Talking about “weaknesses”, it’s not really a secret that Raina’s technique against the short ball has often been suspect, a fact that England’s bowlers drove home during India’s disastrous summer there last year. As the Indian think tank goes back to the drawing board to finalise on their middle order in Tests for the matches ahead, such a perception may not really help his case to zero in on the number six spot.

Taking the question on the chin, Raina said: “Everyone has something where they are not at their best but my comfort against the short ball has come a long way. I have worked very hard on it and taken in all the advice I have got from my coach and seniors.”

There is an uncanny similarity between him and Yuvraj Singh on one front — despite proving themselves as one-day veterans, both had to suffer an agonising wait before making the cut for Tests. In Raina’s case, he made his one-day debut in Greg Chappell’s tenure in 2005 while he could play his first Test only in 2010 against Sri Lanka — thanks to the galacticos in the Indian middle order.

“I am aware of this but all good things come to those who wait. It’s not in my hands so all I can do is to ensure that I give my hundred per cent and leave the rest up to the powers that be. Being a permanent fixture on the Test team, however, is my ultimate dream,” he said.

While cricket writers may not refer to him frequently as

‘captaincy material”, the man from the small town of Muzzafarabad in Uttar Pradesh has always done a decent job whenever he was thrust with the captaincy — the last one being a tour of the West Indies after the IPL last year. Did it, then, hurt when a junior like Virat Kohli was anointed as vice-captain for the Asia Cup last March?

“Again, it’s something not in my hands. It’s the board’s duty to consider all their options. They put their faith in me and gave me captaincy and vice-captaincy on several occasions and I made them proud. I just want to play my game and make my country proud,” Raina shouldered arms to this one.

 

“Good things come in small packages”

 

The followers of Suresh Raina have often wondered at his ability to clear the ground for sixes, often through it’s longest parts. His small and compact frame belies the power that he imparts behind the strokes, something which had been a key to India’s numerous run-chases or the consistency behind Chennai Super Kings’ success in the IPL.

Asked to share his “secret” on this, Raina had this to say with a hearty laugh: “Good things come in small packages. You don’t have to be six feet tall to have the strength to clear a boundary. There is no secret really — I work on my fitness, my discipline and my strokes and what you see is a result of that.”

 

However, no less electric is his fielding in the point region, where he has established himself firmly as a Yuvraj Singh clone. What’s his tip then for a youngster who wants to enjoy and excel in fielding like him?

“Don’t let yourself go fitness wise because it makes it that much harder to get back into groove. The harder you work, the better the results. Work on your flexibility and reflexes… also take care of a good, balanced diet and not too many late nights.”

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