ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Suresh Raina came into this series with question marks over his place in the one-day outfit, having been left out of the squad when India last picked a full-strength side, during the Asia Cup in March. The counterattacking hundred on Wednesday, his first outside Asia and his first since January 2010, in the second ODI against England should give him a head start in the race for middle-order spots.
Raina was particularly pleased with his effort as it came after a dreadful run for India in the Test series, which ended with three one-sided defeats. “This knock is one of the most special ones for me given the circumstances and the conditions,” he told the BCCI website. “We hadn’t won the game in a long time and to help the team break that jinx with a century was very satisfying.”
Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma had started India’s recovery after a nervy start that has been a familiar sight all tour, but it was Raina’s century off 74 deliveries propelled India towards a 300-plus total. “After I got my fifty, I got a bit conscious [about the score] because I hadn’t scored a century since a long time and I wanted to finish well,” he said.
“Rohit also got out after his fifty and I was determined to carry on till the end. So I played khadoos (doggedly) for a while. After a while I started to play my shots, which did disturb the bowlers’ rhythm. They struggled with their field placements and bowling areas. That’s when I knew that I was dominating them and was thinking one step ahead of them.”
After India’s disastrous showing in the Tests, the BCCI had installed Ravi Shastri as the team director, prompting speculation over head coach Duncan Fletcher’s future. There have been conflicting statements over who remains in charge – Shastri, Fletcher or captain MS Dhoni – but Raina said the team environment was “very good” and that Shastri’s appointment was already proving beneficial.
“Ravi Shastri gave us a lot of confidence,” Raina said. “He came to the team meeting and said a few words to the team which were very inspiring. He was also sitting with me in the bus when we were on our way to the stadium and he told me, ‘khadoos khelna hai (play a stubborn game)’. There is a different comfort level when you talk to a former Indian player; you can be free and honest. All the other coaches have been very supportive as well but Ravi Shastri set the tone for us and instilled confidence in the team.”
Raina also credited the training he did in Mumbai with Sachin Tendulkar and former India batsman Pravin Amre, who has also worked closely with several other Indian batsmen including Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. “After all the work I had put into my game in Mumbai with Sachin paaji and Amre sir, I was determined to join the team and bring them some happiness, whether it is by scoring a hundred or taking a brilliant catch. I had to bring the smiles back on my teammates’ faces. I am glad I could do that today.”