Suresh Raina led Uttar Pradesh to their maiden Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy win with a comprehensive win against Baroda in front of an enthusiastic crowd which had gathered at the Wankhede Stadium on January 20, 2016. Leading from the front, the left-hand batsman helped set up the match with a 37-ball 47 not out and then captained the team to victory.
Put in to bat it was up to Uttar Pradesh to negotiate the Irfan Pathan-led Baroda attack and set a competitive total on the board. And the UP captain shouldered the responsibility. Coming in to bat at No 3, his knock was crucial to the team’s victory which earned him the man of the match as well.
Elaborating on his knock, Raina said, “When Prashant (Gupta) and I went in to bat we talked about being there till the end because their bowling was good. Irfan was bowling well, Munaf (Patel) too and then (Hardik) Pandya (too was bowling well) so our plan was that (having) around 160 (runs) would be good (contest).”
On the eve of the match, Raina had mentioned that it could be his game. Reminded of the same, the UP captain said, “I work hard and sometimes you feel that something is going to happen. Before the final I was scoring 20-25 runs. I was just telling myself to look to bat through, look to bat with the few batsmen in the middle and then I can accelerate later on. I feel that if you have wickets in hand then you can easily rotate strike later on. That’s what we did as a bating unit. I think Prashant myself, Umang (Sharma) and then Piyush (Chawla) came and batted really well.”
Raina had words of praise for his bowlers, who defended the target with ease. “Credit to the bowlers, they bowled really well. They executed the plans really well, specially our spinners. (Pacers) Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra, Ankit Rajpoot (bowled well) then in the middle when Piyush (Chawla) and Kuldeep (Yadav) bowled (well) that made us believe we can win from anywhere.”
“Kuldeep hasn’t played much. He bowls lot in the nets and he always kept working hard. Piyush is always telling him to be positive, because in T20 you can get hit for a six and the bowler can feel a little down. But he was still fligting the ball, bowling chinaman so that shows how much of a tough character he has so I am very happy with his performance.
“Piyush has always done well for UP. He has lot of experience in international cricket as well as in IPL so that’s why I bowled six overs upfront with the fast bowlers. I thought Piyush can bowl one over in powerplay and then in the middle I changed Kuldeep’s bowling end because there was breeze. Pandya and (Deepak) Hooda (who were batting at the time) can hit really well. And Piyush also told me he can bowl from there,” Raina said.
On his team’s approach to the chase, Irfan said, “We kept losing wickets. It’s a T20 game, but partnerships are very crucial and we kept doing that in the other games we had some or the partnership. Especially in this match it didn’t happen, that is one of the reasons that we lost. But having said that, Baroda has done well throughout the tournament and I am really proud of the way the boys have responded and played.”