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Suresh Raina is a team man. How often have we seen him run from point to midwicket just to pat his team mate on the back for a good fielding effort? Every time an opposition wicket falls, Raina is the first to reach for the bowler’s hair (ask Doug Bollinger).
The latest demonstration of Raina’s belief, “It’s very important to enjoy each other’s success” was, when all his team-mates were busy rejuvenating after the high-octane drama, Raina ran on the field to welcome Man-of-the-Match Ravindra Jadejafrom the presentation ceremony.
After a slice of luck (in form of RP Singh’s overstepping front foot) gave CSK a dramatic win, Raina described to iplt20.com how it was to watch it all happen from the dugout. The left-hander spoke about CSK’s strengthened bowling attack and the two young fast bowlers from his state, Uttar Pradesh, he has high expectations from.
In a special segment of the interview, Raina shared the special bond he shares with one of the game’s greatest batsmen, Brian Lara.
All hail Sir Jaddu
Raina credited Ravindra Jadeja’s 20-ball unbeaten 38 run-knock for the win. Not to forget his match-winning edge off the last ball.
“It was very difficult to watch this game from the dressing room. But I think we played really well; especially Jadeja, who today showed what sort of a player he is. He showed character and took responsibility. I’m very happy for what he has achieved. He has scored a lot of runs in the domestic competitions and he’s also improved as a person. He’s more determined as a batsman.”
Moment of madness
Confusion prevailed for a few seconds. Everyone thought RCB had won the game by a run, until umpire Choudhary stuck his arm out to signal a no-ball. Raina described the mood in the CSK dugout thus.
“It was chaos. When Jadeja played that last shot, we sat in the dugout and saw the RCB guys going up thinking they’d won. We thought so too. Then suddenly Choudhary signalled the no-ball and we didn’t know what was happening. It was only after a few moments that we realised that we were sitting in the winning team dugout.”
His young UP colts
Captaining Uttar Pradesh in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy, Raina was impressed by two young pacers, Ankeet Rajpoot and Imtiyaz Ahmed. This is how he got the two promising lads into the CSK camp.
“I played with them during the domestic season and these guys were putting a lot of effort on the field. I thought they deserved a crack at the IPL and so spoke to Flem (CSK coach Stephen Fleming) about them. He said he’ll definitely have a look at them and he liked what he saw. Imtiyaz and Ankeet had a major role to play in Uttar Pradesh qualifying for the Ranji Trophy knockouts without RP Singh, Bhuvan (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) and PK (Praveen Kumar). They were really keen on getting some international exposure and I thought this will help them. I’m very happy that they’re here.
With compliments, from Prince
A few days ago, Raina got a surprise on Twitter, when Brian Charles Lara wrote to him, “I want to see you playing some more Test cricket and I know u have what it takes to make it big in that arena.”
“He wants me to do well in international cricket and he thinks that I can. It was the biggest compliment I’ve received. It’s my biggest dream to establish myself as a Test cricketer and if a legend like him thinks that I have it in me, it feels really special.”
The bond with the legend
Raina told us a few stories that revealed Lara’s admiration for the youngster’s talent went well beyond the Twitter praise.
“When I went to the West Indies in 2006 for the ODI series, I was very young and shy. I didn’t speak English and so wouldn’t talk much with anyone. During that time, I remember he came up to me and broke the ice. He asked me about myself, my family and made me feel relaxed. He gave me a book on his 400 not-out (record highest Test score that Lara made against England in 2004), on which I took his autograph. I have preserved it at my home till date and always will. When I went to the West Indies again, for the 2011 Test series, he threw a party for all of us for winning the World Cup.”
Pearls of wisdom What’s the best cricketing advice that Brian Lara has given Suresh Raina?
“I had a cricketing chat with him and he told me that the most important thing while batting is your mental strength and the ability to read the bowler’ mind. He said it’s all about how you feel on that particular day the moment you put your jersey on.”
A cool customer under pressure, wicketkeeper-batsman Dishant Yagnik can wield the willow and chip in with useful runs. One of his memorable performances in the Indian Premier League came last season when we struck Dale Steyn for two consecutive boundaries to pull off an improbable win for the Rajasthan Royals.
However, for those who witnessed his last ball six off Sourav Ganguly in the Deodhar Trophy in 2006 will not be surprised by his ability to remain unfazed under pressure. And guidance from CaptainRahul Dravid has only helped Yagnik get better at his job.
Batting lower down the order, he plays valuable cameos for his franchise. In RR’s last home game against the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013, Yagnik contributed a useful 16 runs that helped the Royals’ defend a competitive total.
Hailing from a small city, Banswara in southern Rajasthan, Yagnik belongs to a family steeped in cricket. There are trophies named after his great grandfather Sevalalji Yagnik says the 29-year old who started out as a fast bowler but due to lack of height turned to keeping wickets egged on by his coach DL Nagar.
Encouraged by his father who sent him to a school which was more active in sports Yagnik was able to pursue his dream to be a cricketer. While speaking to iplt20.com over a cup of tea at the Rajasthan Cricket Association’s Academy after training for the game against Kings XI Punjab, Yagnik talked about his game. He recalled keeping wickets for the legendary Shane Warne who he watched on television as a youngster, getting valuable tips from Dravid on batting and challenges to keeping for a pacer like Shaun Tait.
Excerpts from the interview:
On his role in the batting line-up and batting calmly
My role is clear in my mind that I will always get to bat when 12 or 13 balls are left or three overs left in the innings. And so I have to make the maximum use of those. So I have been practicing accordingly for the last three-four months.
Ahead of the match against the Kolkata Knight Riders I had watched Sunil Narine’s videos so had an idea of how he bowls in the last overs. You get an idea from watching the videos and you can plan the innings accordingly. You get an idea of when Brett Lee tries yorkers or slower ones. However, it is not always necessary that you are able to execute it. Sometimes you do fail as well but it has been okay so far.
On staying calm under pressure while chasing
While batting first the mind is free as you can set any target but when you are chasing you have to keep wickets in hand as well. Our practice is also planned that way and each player is assigned a role, like the middle-order will be led to revolve around Brad Hodge. At the top of the order Rahul bhai (Dravid) or Ajinkya Rahane (will lead). If they play till the end then you have to stick it out with them. If they are giving the charge to the bowlers you have to take a single and give them the strike and if you are giving the charge they will do vice versa.
Everything is planned in a manner that whoever is in good momentum will lead and the others have to support him to keep it going.
On the challenges while adjusting from top of the order to batting down the order
For the last 3-4 years I have been opening in the shorter formats in the domestic circuit. While batting at top you don’t face as many yorkers or slower ones. The ball swings and you have an advantage (cushion to settle) of about six overs. So even if you face 2-3 dot balls a boundary evens it out. But down the order it is different. If you play even one dot ball the pressure increases regardless of whether you are setting a target or chasing it. So to come into that mould I have been working accordingly. I am comfortable against the short ball but as far as it goes for learning to negotiate the slower ones, I have had to put in a lot of hard work. I have worked on picking up the slower ones. Even during the domestic season I would tell the net bowlers to try and bowl slower deliveries to me. The short balls have pace so you can use the pace (to guide the ball through the gaps and score runs). I use the pace when I am batting but to score off slower balls you have to use power, so I have worked on that. It has been okay so far and I have had success.
On batting with the lower order batsmen
If I am set then the lower order batsman at the other end will look to take a single and give me the strike. The responsibility increases since you have to keep wickets in hand and make runs as well. It depends on the situations. I try to only hit the shots that I am confident of scoring off and I do not take too many risks.
On the challenges while keeping wickets to bowlers like Shaun Tait
Honestly speaking I had struggled in the first year in the nets. I had not kept for anyone with speed above 135kph and Shaun Tait would come and hit 150 kph straight away. So I would struggle a bit. Initially I got hurt a few times in the first year on the thumbs etc., but then you get used to it through practice. And now I am truly enjoying his bowling. We have a good set of fast bowlers now like Rahul Shukla, S Sreesanth , Tait, James Faulkner, Kevon Cooper and Siddharth Trivedi. We have a mixed blend of slower and fast bowlers. I enjoyed a lot in the match against KKR, it was an awesome experience.
I watched videos of my wicket keeping and that helped me a lot. You have to stay low because on Indian wickets the ball stays low. But the wicket in Jaipur is good. There is bounce and carry in it and the ball seams well. It depends on how you learn from the videos and also the coaches have helped a lot. I like to learn, I want to learn so that is helping.
So, what was it like to keep wickets for Shane Warne?
Superb! He is a player who I used to watch on the television as a child and think how difficult it would be able to keep to him. It was a superb experience and I even stumped Parthiv Patel off his bowling so it was a great experience with him.
On batting tips from Dravid
He had told me at this very place (RCA) about my role in the IPL and what to do to prepare for it for the next three months. He told me once the nets are over do a round of 15 minutes where you ask 2-3 bowlers to mix up the deliveries – like slower ones, yorkers and bouncers. Don’t assign anyone for one particular type ask all to bowl along and mix-up the deliveries so that you don’t know who will bowl what. And then choose your areas, like, over mid-wicket, over the covers or over fine-leg where ever you can score runs. And he also showed me the technique to bat. The way I hold the bat and keep my head still, it becomes easier to pick the ball and hit it better. If your vision is straight you can pick the changes in the hand (of the bowler).
On the team over the last five years and now into its sixth year
The USP of this team is it is a family. I have heard from lot of players that they want to play for the Royals at least for a year because when the Royals team takes the field they come across as a family and that causes a bit of nervousness for the opposition. Whether we win or lose, we stick together. Earlier it was Shane Warne and now it is Rahul bhai, they have given the team a base. It is the sixth edition and the image is still the same
On captains Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid
They both have one thing in common, both back youngsters a lot. If someone is from a small city they do not let him feel out of place. They give everyone the same kind of importance and treat you on par with them. They consider each and everyone as important for the team. They back youngsters no matter how new he is or from where he is. They make him feel like an important part of the team.
Warne is an unpredictable captain and only he knows what is in his mind. At the same time Rahul bhai’s cool and calm. It is very impressive. He is a simple guy and to share space with him is a very big thing for us. He is a legend. But he is so simple and everyone wants to be like him.
On the prospects of the team in 2013
In the twenty20 format it depends on the momentum and we have got it but let us see whether we can convert it (into more wins) or not. But my gut feeling is that we will go to the playoffs.