Being Suresh Raina
Bengaluru, Aug 31: It’s not easy being Suresh Raina in the current Indian Test batting line-up. If you score runs, it will be because you’re playing on the batsman-friendly Indian wickets and hence, they won’t be as valuable. But every innings that ends early will pile pressure on you. If you approach a Test innings with the attacking intent that has earned you accolades in the ODIs and T20s, you will be deemed unfit for the longest version of the game. But if you dig in and curb your natural instincts, it’s because your confidence is low and mind cluttered.
If you’re Suresh Raina, the short balls that you have pulled and hooked away to the boundary, will be overshadowed by the few that you’ve missed and gotten out to. Your swaggering willow will be watched by all, but the hard yards that you put behind it will go unnoticed. It’s not easy being Suresh Raina if you don’t have the confidence that he does.
Most 25-year-olds would cringe under the pressure of having their place in the side questioned by the experts consistently and sometimes, not unjustifiably. But Raina doesn’t let the brickbats down his morale and self-belief. Even if the criticism does affect him, he puts up a brave face while talking about it. That’s what he did during a chat with bcci.tv, while facing questions regarding the quiet start to his Test career and his perceived shortcoming against bouncers.
Are you disappointed not to have created the same impact in Test cricket as you have in the shorter formats?
Not really, I’ve played only 16 Test matches, this is my 17th. I’ve done well in ODIs, and hopefully, I’ll start contributing for the Test team soon.
How different is your mindset while batting in Tests and ODIs?
You have to control your shots in Tests. But I’m an aggressive batsman and whenever I get the odd loose ball, I have to play my shots. At the same time, I also need to control my aggression and choose the bowlers to hit. If I bat for 100 balls and score 70-80 runs, I can build a big partnership with someone and get a good score for the team.
Do you tend to go into an over-defensive shell in Tests at times?
I cannot be over-aggressive. I have to hang in for a while, before playing my shots. It is very important for me to understand my role and strike a balance between attack and defence.
Do you feel more pressure now that fellow young batsmen like Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli are carving their place in the Test side?
Right now, it’s important for me to focus on getting runs for myself rather than worrying about how others are doing. I have to learn from my mistakes and look to score big runs in Test cricket. I did it in the West Indies and played a good knock in England as well. I also got a hundred on debut in Sri Lanka. Hopefully, I’ll make it count one day.
What do you have to say about your perceived vulnerability against the short ball?
People can say whatever they want. But I know what kind of a player I am, what my abilities are and how hard I work. If you get out to a short ball, that doesn’t make you a bad player of bouncers. I hook and pull the ball well, which means I can handle the short ball. But yes, it is also about how to leave the ball and move your feet. I’m working hard and getting better. I’m determined to do well this season. In the 16 Tests that I’ve played, I’ve gotten out to a short ball only once. I’ve spoken to Gary Kirsten and Duncan Fletcher and it is getting better for me now.
Is it true that at times, you anticipate the bouncer and get caught in the crease to a fuller delivery?
That’s a wrong notion. I can’t be waiting for the short ball all the time. I have to be on the front foot. I do get out to the fuller deliveries often but that has nothing to do with the short-ball.
Are you a bit unhappy with your Test form?
The Hyderabad Test was my first in the last 11 months and I was a bit unfortunate to get out to the leg-stump delivery. I’ve had a good domestic season, and honestly, I’m not worried about the criticism. I know I have the ability to score a lot of runs for India in Test cricket.
Batting at No.6, you’re often required to bat with the tail. How do you see that role?
I’ve learnt how to bat with the tailenders; you have to when you’re batting at No.6 and 7. It is a difficult position to bat but I know that I have MS Dhoni with me and following him is R Ashwin who can also bat. It’s important to build partnerships with these batsmen and then take charge when the tailenders come in.