My job is to stay till the end: Raina
Colombo, Jul 30: Suresh Raina pulled yet another rabbit out of the hat when he led India to victory against Sri Lanka, with the support of Irfan Pathan, in the third ODI between the two sides. The southpaw remained unconquered on 65 while Irfan Pathan was unbeaten on 34 as the duo took India across the line in a thrilling finish with two balls to spare.
Raina spoke to the media in the press conference ahead of the fourth ODI of the five-match series.
On coming in to bat in critical situations and winning matches for India
In July 2005, I had played my first [international] match, so it has been seven years now. I now have the experience of playing many matches. As a middle-order batsman you have to contribute in every match. Sometimes you get 15 overs, sometimes 20, so I knew in my mind that if I played till the last ball, I would be able to reach the target [...] I felt good after chasing down 280-290 on Sri Lankan soil.
On how he remains mentally strong in big matches
My hostel days were tough; [the hostel] didn’t have good facilities. But we used to make the best of whatever we got. In most matches we have been tough and though there weren’t enough and good facilities, we would get good inputs and we would learn from that. And we learnt that the more chances we got, we [would get tougher] and if we got to bat in pressure situations, we would make sure that we performed. [...] Dhoni and I have been successful as a pair while chasing. Overall, I get to learn a lot and I hope that I do well in the forthcoming matches as well.
On the team’s mindset after taking a 2-1 lead
We have three more games to go [on the tour] – two one-dayers and one T20. We are looking good as a team. […] Virat [Kohli] and Gautam [Gambhir] scored hundreds, Viru bhai [Virender Sehwag] fell short but our goal is yet to be reached. The tour is yet to finish. With two more games remaining, [...] we will look to play our natural game.
On the adjustments he has to make as a batsman when he comes in to bat in different situations and with a few overs left
I have learnt over the years how to bat with the tail-enders but luckily in the last game I was batting with Irfan [Pathan]. I knew he is [a batting] all-rounder; he has done really well [with the bat]. But for me, when I get 15-20 overs, I have to bat till the last ball. [...] I have to bat during the batting Powerplay, [that is between the] 35th and 40th overs, so I need to play my shots as well as take singles and twos [...] If I bat with Mahi [MS Dhoni], then I know I can play big shots because he is there [at the other end]. But if I am batting with the likes of [Ravichandran] Ashwin, Irfan, Zak [Zaheer Khan], I have to take a risk in the last three or four overs so my job is to play till the last ball.
On whether India’s bowling at the death was a concern
The bowlers are doing well. There are new boys [in the team]. Zaheer bhai gave us a good start. We got three wickets at the start [of the game]. After that [Ashok] Dinda and Ashwin bowled well. Dinda was a bit expensive towards the end, but new boys are getting a chance, which is good because we will be playing a lot of cricket in the near future. They are being groomed and Zaheer bhai is with them so they are getting to learn a lot too.
On whether he would like to bat slightly up the order
I would love to. If I get to bat up the order I can play more overs [and] I can score more hundreds. If you look at my batting, I have scored only three hundreds in my career [so far]. [I] need to [play] longer innings and score more runs [so that] I can come back into the Test team. Wherever I get a chance to bat, at No. 4, 5 or 6, I have to bat [there].
On his weakness against short-pitched bowling as pointed out by experts
I have been working hard [on it] and I have been discussing my batting with Duncan [Fletcher] [...] You have to play shots [...] [Even as you] look to score runs, [you need to] tap the ball and take singles [...] I have to do well in Test cricket. I need to do well [...].
On having to bat under pressure due to other batsmen’s non performance
In the last three games we almost scored almost 300 runs, except for the second one-day. We are still very pleased with our batting line-up. Whoever gets going has to bat till the last over. Someone scores a hundred [while someone] has to finish the game for team. If you are batting first, you have to make sure we make 300-plus runs [...]. If you win the toss, you have to make sure you put runs on the board.
On the kind of work that they put into their fielding and on some fielders excelling
I have been working with Trevor Penny. Manoj [Tiwary], Virat [Kohli], Rohit [Sharma], Gautam [Gambhir] and I have been doing a lot of drills. We don’t just throw at the stumps [but] make sure we hit them, so we have been doing a good job in the circle. We have to make sure before the [ICC] World Cup [T20] that we are the best fielding side in Twenty20 [cricket]. We have Test matches coming up now and we still have to replace Rahul bhai in the slips. [We need to] make sure someone takes the catches. Ishant [Sharma], Umesh [Yadav] – everyone is bowling at 150 [kmph] plus. Taking slip catches is important in Test cricket.
On whether he was concerned about facing Lasith Malinga in the final overs in the third ODI
Not really, because I knew I had to face him. [With about] four overs left, I knew he would come harder at us. [I just] looked to play straight. [Earlier] he was getting reverse swing so I just looked to play him. [I thought] if I could play till the 45thor 46th over, then I could take chances. Irfan was batting really well so I [was looking] to play till the last over.
On playing Lasith Malinga’s yorker
I was watching his hand. I was not thinking about what he was going to bowl. [I had decided that] whatever he bowls, [I would] just see his hand and play normally [...]. He was bowling quick, he was bowling in good areas, but [when] Irfan and I were batting, I knew [...] he would bowl outside the off-stump. I was thinking, ‘Just stand on the middle-stump and look to play straight. He always has problems bowling to left-handers.’
On whether they discuss problems like slow over-rates in team meetings
It is our responsibility to [help effect a] quick change between overs [...] When the batting Powerplay or bowling Powerplay [is taken], our job [as fielders] is to be ready when the bowler is ready [...]. Our job is to give 10-15 minutes extra to the bowler so they can execute their plan really well. You have to be mentally prepared for that [...] If I have to field at mid-on and mid-off, I have to go there [...] When the 40th over comes, I have to automatically go to deep [long-on or long-off]. […] We have to do the job for the captain.