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Shirin Sadikot in Kochi 21 November 2013 - 11:27pm IST

Giving more time to bowling: Raina

Raina wants to do it all – bat at 4, strike with the ball, be a livewire in field

Suresh Raina has been very honest and public about his desires to, first, play Test cricket and second, bat higher up the order in ODIs and T20Is. And he is leaving no stone unturned to achieve both. He got his wanted No. 4 spot during India’s home ODI series against Australia but in Kochi, the first ODI against West Indies, he was back at batting on 5.

With India’s top-three in rollicking form, Raina felt he cannot contribute to the team’s cause as much as he wants. So, he has come up with a new way – bowling. Raina, whose first Test wicket was Ricky Ponting – has been a partnership breaker on rare occasions. He has picked 13 wickets in 17 Test matches.

But now, the left-handed batsman wants to do more with his right-arm, and hence he is paying a bit more attention to his off-spin bowling skills. After bowling a decent number of overs in first-class cricket, Raina registered figures of 10-1-34-3 in the Kochi ODI. He caught up with bcci.tv to speak about his bowling, the No. 4 spot and much more.

You came in this series with a century and 50 in Ranji Trophy against Baroda. Good to come into a series with some fine form?

I have been in good form and I’m also feeling mentally very relaxed. I have been scoring runs consistently in the Ranji Trophy and also have been bowling well – I picked three wickets in the match against Baroda. That helped today while bowling.

You have been bowling quite a lot in first-class cricket of late. Have you started to give a bit more time to bowling?

I have been bowling in the nets since 2011 but it’s only recently that I have started to bowl a lot in the matches. In the T20s and ODIs if you can contribute with the ball, it is very useful for the team and the captain’s job gets easier. R Ashwin is a top-class spinner and if people like Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh) pa, (Ravindra) Jadeja and I chip in with some overs depending on your form, it gives the team the freedom to play with three fast bowlers. Also, with five fielders inside the circle, it’s not easy to hit the spinners hard.

My bowling has always been very simple – I just pitch the ball to the stumps and the batsman can do whatever he wants with it. I speak with Joe Dawes (India’s bowling coach) and to Ashwin as well. Another important reason for giving more time to bowling is that batting at No. 5, 6 or 7, you don’t always get too much of batting, especially with our batting line-up. So, if you can chip in with the ball and field well, you feel like you have contributed to the team’s cause.

What’s the reason behind Yuvraj not bowling since the last few matches?

There is no particular reason as such because he has been bowling in the nets regularly. Today, I think it was because two left-handers were batting together and we needed a right-arm part-time spinner. Also, my trajectory is flatter and faster while Yuvi pa tends to flight the ball often. So, Dhoni must have thought I was a better choice at the time on this track.

You told me during CLT20 about your desire to bat at 4 in ODIs. You got that position during the India-Australia ODIs. Now you’re back to No. 5?

Yes, I got to bat at 4 for a few matches but I couldn’t get a big score; I got out for 30s and 40s. So, the team management must have thought it would be better if I go back to my regular No. 5 because that’s where I have batted for most of my career.

So, what is the plan here? You and Yuvraj keep on swapping positions?

We are going series-wise. I was given the Australia series and I didn’t take the chance. The team management would have thought Raina is more comfortable playing his explosive game at 5. Also, Yuvi pa didn’t score many runs at 5 in that series. So, they must have thought that both my and Yuvi pa’s game has gone a bit haywire because of the swap. Yes, I want to bat at 4 but the team’s need is bigger than an individual’s need.

Do you have your eyes on the squad for the South Africa series?

Currently I am more excited to be playing the last ODI of this series on my home ground (Kanpur) on my birthday (chuckles). Yes, I am looking forward to South Africa and I have had enough experience playing there. I went there with the India A team when we won the one-day series against Australia A and South Africa A. It was nice to get a hundred there and pick some wickets. That experience is still fresh in my mind because it was only a few months ago that we went there. The good thing is that all the boys present in that series – Shikhar, Rohit, Pujara – are part of the Indian team.

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