Suresh Raina last played an ODI back in 2015. His latest T20I stint with the Indian team was a year back against England wherein he scored a 45-ball 63. Raina later found himself out of the Indian team with no longer an opportunity to represent the country in blue. No fuss about it, Raina continued to go about his regime working hard every day to get back to where he belonged – the Indian team.
Fast forward to 2018, and he is back in the mix and back to the group where he claims he finds himself amidst ‘a bubbling energy’. The last year has been painful Raina claims, but not once did that burning desire to don the blue fade off, explains Raina.
“I have worked really hard for the last two years and coming to back to the Indian team, it feels like I am playing for the first time in the Indian jersey,” Raina toldBCCI.TV. “I am very happy to be back and I have played a good amount of domestic cricket to get myself in the zone. I am looking forward to the game tomorrow.”
You can almost sense that palpable energy with every statement that he makes. There is yearn in his eyes, that desire to get on the field seems stronger than ever. Afterall, it has been a long time coming and the road to the present has been a tough one.
“I am a very positive person,” he says. “The wait to get back into the team made me tougher and hungrier. Each and every lap I ran during training, I was only thinking about the day I will comeback and represent my country.
“Setbacks give you lessons and they make your character stronger. When you feel things are not going your way, you still need to get your process right and work towards better things. You need to ask questions about your abilities as a cricketer and work towards getting better with each passing day. I became stronger and I have prepared really well to get back here.”
And, who stood by him when the going was tough? “When I didn’t get a chance, I was very strong mentally and got a lot of support from my family. I got a lot of support from our Head Coach Ravi Shastri alongside with captain Virat Kohli. When someone is down, but you have people like them supporting you, it feels great. I wanted to get back to winning ways and this T20I series might well be the beginning.
“It is very important to start well and be mentally strong. I know that I need to just switch on my mind and be mentally tough. It’s all about going out there tomorrow and giving it all. I am hungry to do well and starting off fresh in South Africa feels good since I have played enough cricket in the past here.”
He did look good in the nets. There were those confident front foot drives, the charge down the ground and the flourish to send one soaring out of the nets. Raina displayed it all in his long stint ahead of the nets wherein he received some valuable inputs from assistant coach Sanjay Bangar and Ravi Shastri who were keeping a keen watch over him.
“It was a good net session. I had a long stint and faced some quality bowling from our support staff. I feel I am ready to face some fiery spells against a quality opposition,” chuckled Raina.
The dressing room was no different when it came to being in high spirits. With a dominating ODI series win under the belt, the team is buzzing with positivity. For Raina, the dressing room was like home. “This team is enjoying each others’ success and that makes you believe that you can win any sort of tournament anywhere in the world. I love the dressing room atmosphere and it still feels the same. And when you get a lot of support from all corners in the team, it feels great. The dressing room is bubbling with energy and now it is all about getting on the field and start off with a win.”
Raina reserved some special praise for captain Virat Kohli who has been in ominous form with the bat. He has led by example and has lifted the team’s spirits – a hallmark of his captaincy according to Raina. For Raina, though it is all about making this opportunity count, walking out on the field with his heart on his sleeve and giving it his all.
“Whenever you represent your country, that desire is always there to perform. I am very blessed to have mad a comeback. I am getting a good feel of things at the moment. I want to win games for my country and that is my dream at the moment. I want to go out there and express myself. I have worked hard on my game and waited for my chance to come. I am confident and will make the most of it.”