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At his best with the bat, he owns the midwicket boundary. His authoritative drives and cuts bear the uncanny attractiveness of a left-hander. While fielding inside the circle, he’s a bundle of energy and agility. According to Jonty Rhodes, he is currently the “best fielder in India”.
All these aspects of Suresh Raina’s cricket are well-documented. But talent needs other qualities to fulfil its promise, and Raina has those too. He’s a committed young man with a strong work ethic. He swears by the words of his seniors and coaches. Despite scaling the peak of stardom and riches at the young age of 25, he remains humble. There is an effortless friendliness in his demeanour even if he’s speaking to you for the very first time.
Some of these traits shone through in his chat with iplt20.com, where he spoke about CSK’s IPL success, his favourite left-handed batsmen and coaches and the lighter moments shared with his CSK teammates.
Being the highest run-getter in IPL is amazing. God has been very kind. We’ve done really well as a team and fortunately I’ve contributed in all four seasons. I’m really looking forward to the fifth season and playing with the new players that are coming in the team, like [Ravindra] Jadeja. Hopefully, I’ll do well this time too.
Batting at No.3, my role is very important in the side. Every time I get a start, I try to finish the game. We have [Michael] Hussey, [Murali] Vijay and myself batting at one, two and three, which forms a very formidable top order. I’m a positive player by nature and that’s how I’m expected to play.
IPL has taught me how to handle pressure and bat in difficult situations. Recently, in the CB Series, we chased down 321 under 40 overs against Sri Lanka. Virat and I put up 120 runs in nine odd overs. We could do it because of the IPL, where we’re often faced with such situations. I always give my 100 per cent, irrespective of whether I’m wearing the blue jersey or the yellow one. As a professional cricketer, each game is a challenge for me.
Being a Super King
The secret behind CSK’s success is that we always stand by each other – in victories and defeats, joy and sorrow. We always help each other out and celebrate each other’s success, which is very important.
My funniest moment in IPL was when I almost pulled off Doug Bollinger’s hair out after he picked up an important wicket. I didn’t know he had just got a hair transplant done. He swore at me, saying, ‘If you ever touch my hair again, I’ll kill you’. I didn’t go anywhere near him the next time he got a wicket. I have downloaded that video. We still watch it and have a good laugh.
The amount of respect and money we get from the IPL is outstanding. But when we play cricket it’s all about the team. Playing and winning games together has a different high.
CSK didn’t do too well in the 2011 CLT20. We hope to get back on track with this IPL. This year is going to be a challenge for us as the other teams must have figured us out in the last four years.
MS Dhoni – leader, finisher and friend
Dhoni is a very good leader of men. He knows what to tell each player and gets the best out of him. He always believes in his players. It is that belief which won India the World Cup and took us to the No.1 Test spot.
The best thing about Dhoni’s captaincy is that he ensures the environment in the dressing room is always cheerful and positive. When that happens, you can beat any team in the world. He shares a very good equation with the players and the support staff.
People think MS is very calm under pressure. But being his friend I know that calmness is only a facade. He does a very good job of hiding his emotions. The way he conducts himself in such situations shows the toughness of his character. There’s so much one can learn from him. He doesn’t think about the past or worry about the future, just lives in the present moment.
Luckily, my last three coaches have been left-handers – Gary Kirsten with the Indian team and Kepler Wessels and now Stephen Fleming with CSK. I’ve also benefitted a lot from having seniors like Mike Hussey and Matthew Hayden in the CSK camp.
Stephen Fleming is the friendliest, most dashing and disciplined coach I’ve ever had. He’s also one of the most wonderful human beings I’ve met in my life.
The best advice that Fleming gave me was, ‘Stay away from the cheerleaders and focus on your game’.
Sourav Ganguly is my favourite left-hander. I spoke to him at Lord’s and he told me, ‘You have the talent, the strokes and plenty of time on your hand. Keep up the good work and have fun. Have faith in your ability and enjoy the moment’.
As he prepares for yet another action-packed season in the yellow jersey, Raina has made some notes for himself. “Be honest, stay humble, add value to the team”, he says. If he persists with that, it will bode well not only for CSK but for Indian Cricket at large.
Playing under the guidance of Gautam Gambhir and sharing the Kolkata Knight Riders dressing room with the likes of Wasim Akram and Jacques Kallis has helped sharpen his skills says young left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla. This exuberant bowler had a modest domestic season with the ball, but he did score some valuable runs. His crucial performances in the knock-out stage and the final of the Deodhar Trophy have given Abdulla a boost ahead of IPL 2012.
Excerpts from Iqbal’s brief interview with iplt20.com: On KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir
Playing under Gauti bhai has been a good experience. And he has shown faith in me. And when the captain is showing faith in you, you are [even] more motivated to perform, and you also feel like doing what the captain asks off you. Even if you are going for runs in a match, if the captain is giving you the ball, [you] try to do your best and the captain is with you.
On his experiences with international players in IPL
It is very good. Last year was extremely good. We have players like Jacques Kallis, Brett Lee, Gauti Bhai and the legendary bowler Wasim Akram. And then coach Dave Whatmore was also there. So there is a different atmosphere and you learn a lot from observing them. You learn from watching them, their attitude in the nets, on the ground. And then I would discuss my bowling with them and they would teach me [different things].
On learning from Gautam Gambhir
I talk a lot with Gauti bhai because he is a senior player and he is one of the best players of spin in the world. He helps me a lot. After the nets I ask him which ball you found easy to play and which ball you found tough. So many times he has spoken to me and told me which balls I can bowl and similar things.
On Jacques Kallis
No matter what kind of wicket, Jacques Kallis’ approach is always to ensure that if he is batting, he doesn’t get out. [...] His approach in the nets is the same as it is in a match. Gauti bhai also says the same thing about Kallis’ approach – that he plays in the nets like he does in a match so try to get him out here. So, in the nets I would try to work out where the runs would come and after speaking to Jacques about the field setting I would then bowl accordingly and then count how many runs I have given away and which type of balls were dot balls, etc.
On his preparation for IPL 2012
Right now there are domestic matches happening continuously, so I am focusing from match to match – whether it was the one-dayers or now the T20s. [I am] not thinking too much about the IPL. Whatever matches I get to play, I am focusing on those. Like right now the one-dayers that got over and then the Deodhar Trophy and now the T20s. I am focusing on my next match.
On bowling in the shorter formats
All the matches that are taking place, T20 or one-dayers will be very helpful for IPL. I have bowled mostly in the bowling powerplay overs in the one-dayers that I played recently. So it is good for me before the IPL. I have been working hard during practice and then [have been] executing the same during the matches as well. So it is good.
On his domestic performances this year
I have been working very hard and I have got awards [...] [for my performances]. So, there is a bit if pressure to perform when you have been winning awards. I have been doing the hard work and focusing on [my bowling] [...]. I had a good season and I had full confidence in myself and faith in God. I looked to bowl the good balls, got six wickets in one match and four in the final, so got 10 wickets from two matches [in the Deodhar Trophy] which will give me a lot of boost going ahead.
[...] [In the recently-concluded Deodhar Trophy] I got wickets in the first powerplay and then again in the 15th over during powerplay. [I] Got wickets like Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Wriddhiman Saha, etc. [...] I am most happy about the fact that I got the wickets at the top of the order. I was using a lot of variations including the arm-ball, depending on what the batsman was looking to play, after reading the batsman.
On KKR’s chances in IPL 2012
We will know about chances once we play on the ground. Last year we had a new team and all players came together and played with a team spirit, which resulted in a good showing. It was better than the previous three years. This year too we will try to perform well and to the best of our abilities.