NAGPUR: It`s been almost seven years since Suresh Raina burst on to the international scene. He may have been out of the Test set up for now but at 25, Raina knows his chances will come. At the start of a new season and before the ODI series against Sri Lanka Raina spoke to TOI about his journey at the international level, his batting, Team India`s performance and other issues. Excerpts from the interview...
You will start your eighth season few days from now. How do you see your journey so far?
It`s been great. I got a break at the right time. I was doing well in the domestic circuit, and was given a chance in the national side. I had a decent first season. I have been a part of some amazing victories and also some disappointing losses. We won the World Cup, which is the ultimate dream for any cricketer, was part of the No. 1 Test team, won the IPL twice and the Champions League once with the Chennai Super Kings. Besides, it was great to have won some prestigious domestic tournaments like the Ranji Trophy, the Duleep Trophy and the Deodhar Trophy. The challenge for me is to keep going.
You talked about amazing highs and disappointed lows. Test series losses against England and Australia were certainly one of those lows...
Certainly. As a sportsman, you always play to win. Having said that, it`s not possible to win every day. There will be days when you will do well and there will be days you won`t. However, we have always given our hundred per cent. In the year before the previous one, we had a fantastic season.
We drew the Test series against Sri Lanka. Then we went on to win our home Test series against Australia and New Zealand, drew against South Africa in their own backyard and then won the World Cup. The losses against England and Australia were surely disappointing. However, we have all moved on and are now focusing on how we can improve ourselves.
Does your role as a floater affect your batting? You have always batted up the order for Uttar Pradesh...
It`s always good to bat at the top, where you get more opportunities, but sometimes crucial 30s and 40s can be very helpful for the team. Ultimately it is a team sport. Personal records don`t matter much if your team ends up on the losing side. Batting in the middle order has always been difficult. You have to adapt different roles at different situations.
If wickets fall early, you need to build up, while if you get a solid start, you need to push things up. Yuvraj (Singh) had once talked about the importance of a solid middle order and how crucial his role is along with myself and (MS) Dhoni. When I scored those crucial 30s against Australia and Pakistan in the World Cup, I experienced tremendous satisfaction. Sachin Bhai said `you won the match for us.` Gary (Kirsten) said `you won the World Cup for us with those two knocks.` Nothing could match those praises. I am ready to bat anywhere the team requires me to.
There`s a lot of talk about your technique, especially against pacers. What do you need to succeed at the highest level-technique or temperament?
You need both. I know I didn`t do well against England, but it was Graeme Swann who got me out on most occasions. Before that I scored against the West Indies in some seamer-friendly wickets. In fact, Rahul Bhai praised me during that series and said that I was batting very well. If I had problems against the seamers, I wouldn`t have been successful in the One-dayers. It`s just a mental thing. I don`t need to cut down my strokes. I just need to be choosy and display proper shot selection. I have always backed my natural instincts and that`s the way I have got success at the international level.
You have been in the company of some world class left-handers like Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Stephen Fleming and Gary Kirsten. Which is the one thing they taught you?
To always remain positive. I am fortunate to share the dressing room with these greats. Not to forget Yuvraj Singh. They have all been great and very humble. They are always ready to share their experiences. I feel I have grown up as a cricketer and as a person in their company. They all had a different style but they had one thing in common-confidence and self-belief. There`s so much to learn from them.
Now with Rahul Dravid having retired, you must be eyeing that slot in the Test side...
Tests has always been an ultimate format for me. It`s very difficult to fill the shoes of somebody like Rahul Bhai. He has set the bench mark for a generation to come. However, it`s our responsibility to carry forward his legacy. I am focusing on a comeback into the Test side. I feel I can contribute a lot in the longer format too. For that, I know I have to score heavily in whatever opportunities I would get. That is the way I made it to the national squad, and I know I have to do it again.
World cricket at a very interesting stage. Do you think the gap has reduced considerably among the top five-six teams now, from what it was two three years ago. From No. 1, India have slipped No. 5 in Tests within a year...
Definitely. The top five six teams are very competitive with some talented players in their side. As far as India are concerned, our focus now is to play good competitive cricket. We have always been a good batting side. Now, we have some exciting pacers like Umesh (Yadav) and Varun (Aaron), who could bowl at 150. It does make a difference. If we play good cricket, the ranking will take care of itself.
BDST: 1251 HRS, July 16, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor
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