Dubai: Suresh Raina may be the highest scorer in the history of Indian Premier League (IPL), but it’s a statistic he wants to wear loosely on his shoulders before the Chennai Super Kings veteran embarks on his campaign for the seventh edition of the event.
“I would say god has been kind in the last six years, alongwith the fact that my team management has always been very positive and allowed me to play my natural game,” the limited overs specialist told Gulf News in a telephone interview from India. Raina is scheduled to join his teammates on Saturday night in Abu Dhabi where the team is based at the moment for the UAE leg of the IPL.
While Chennai had been arguably the most consistent team in league with two titles and as many as five final appearances, they will be under considerable pressure with recent off-the-field problems and a relatively new look outfit. “We are professionals and will not allow any pressure to affect our performance. The first five games can be extremely important in the IPL to build up a winning momentum and that’s what we will focus on,” said Raina.
For all his boyish demeanour, the 27-year-old lefthander is someone who has been there and done that in limited overs cricket. He had been a member of two World Cup winning squads (the inaugural Twenty-20 event in South Africa in 2007 and the 50-overs showpiece in 2011) and is one of the few Indian players who has had a previous experience of playing in the UAE.
“Yes, I was part of the Indian team (under Rahul Dravid) which played two ODIs against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in 2006. I am not aware of how the wickets will behave there but we will get about four days’ time to acclimatise ourselves,” observed Raina, who shares a close rapport with his Super Kings and Indian team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. They open their campaign against King’s XI Punjab in the capital on Friday.
How does this year’s CSK team, according to him, rate compared to the previous years? “There are quite a few new members, but we have a very balanced outfit. The addition of Brendon McCullum has been a big plus, alongwith the likes of Faf Du Plessis, Dwayne Smith, myself and of course, the leadership of Dhoni.
“We also have a very economical leg spinner in Sammuel Badree who will lend tremendous variety to our spin attack”, said Raina, who has plundered 2802 runs in the tournament as a dependable number three. The spin department, which has traditionally played a key role for CSK in choking the opposition, looks awesome again with Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Badree and of course Raina himself for variety.
The last World T-20 in Bangladesh saw a rejuvenated Raina, something which he admitted he owed a lot to yet another southpaw – former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly. “I have been speaking to him often in the last two months and ‘Dada’ (as Ganguly is popular as) stressed on the need to stay positive. I was quite happy with the way I batted in Bangladesh and hope to carry on in the same vein in the UAE,” he said.
At a personal level, is he satisfied with only the super achievers’ tag in the shorter format or still nourishes a dream to consolidate his position in Test cricket? “I am focusing on T-20 now and not thinking long term at all. I would to live in the present and see how it goes,” he added.