Like a seasonal flower, Suresh Raina blooms between April and June. It is that time of the year when he can do no wrong. While many flounder in the extreme heat and gruelling travel for back-to-back matches, the numbers - 421, 434, 520, 438, 441 and 548 bear testimony to his summer of content.
Ever since the IPL commenced in 2008, the runs haven’t stopped flowing from Raina’s blade. His patent over-cover drives, launching on anything down leg side, deft glides to third man and flicks off the thigh, all happen nicely during this time.
So, what makes Raina thrive in summer? He claims it is the security and license that comes with the No 3 position he bats at for the Super Kings. “If you ask me, I bat at No 3 in IPL, and if you look at my one-day record, I bat at No 5, 6 and 7, but in 20 overs I have the freedom even after the first six overs. I have 14 overs to go for my shots and that’s my strength in T20, I look to be solid at the start and then go for my shots,” said Raina.
The fact that Virat Kohli is immovable at No 3, Dhoni tried sending Raina after Virat, but he flunked the No 4 test.
Batting up the order
“I want to bat up but Virat bats at No 3, so I will not get a chance to bat at that position. I got a chance against Australia at No 4, but I didn’t do well. Whatever role the coach and captain give me, I go out and win matches for India. For Chennai, my role is to go up the order and win matches,” he said.
Making his debut as an 18-year-old, Raina was marked for greater achievements. More so, under Greg Chappell. Like the former coach, many felt he was the heir apparent to Sourav Ganguly. But after nine years of international cricket - 17 Tests, 189 ODIs with 29 half-centuries, Raina continues to face selection jitters.
A suspect technique in Test cricket, discomfort against the short ball and bouncy conditions outside India are factors Raina is yet to come to terms with.
It is ironic that Raina, who was tipped to replace Ganguly, had to seek his help to resurrect his career. Out of the one-day squad after the tour of New Zealand, Raina’s sole connect is through T20 cricket.
Some 2800 runs in 100 IPL matches, the highest run-getter so far, only Raina knows how he wants to be known as --- an excellent T20 player and decent ODI bat or one who did not make the most of opportunities.