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Raina rehearsed, repetitive and restrained

Last updated on: May 25, 2010 22:37 IST

Raina rehearsed, repetitive and restrained

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If Suresh Raina appeared rehearsed, repetitive and restrained in his first major interaction with the media since assuming his role as the captain of Team India, he can be forgiven, says Senior Associate Editor Bikash Mohapatra.

Captaincy, at 23, can be a big burden.

Especially when the times aren't particularly favourable.

And the person concerned doesn't have any senior player to back him up in an awkward situation.

Suresh Raina, captain-designate for the forthcoming tour of Zimbabwe, was in similar predicament.

Team India's early exit from the World T20 in the West Indies, coupled with the controversies regarding Lalit Modi and the IPL post-match parties, excessive cricket et al, meant Raina expected some not-so-favourable questions at the final interaction prior to the team's departure for the tour.

The fact that, at just 23, he is the most experienced player in the side, while at the same time not quite experienced in tackling difficult questions from the fourth estate, didn't help matters either.

It, therefore, didn't come across as a surprise when Raina appeared rehearsed, repetitive and restrained in his first major interaction with the media since assuming his role as captain of Team India.

However, despite his considerable effort at holding back answers, his inexperience ensured he did provide enough fodder for the media to chew upon, at least till the show begins.

To his credit, though, Raina did make a good start as a captain, coming to meet the media very much on time, not quite a habit with the Indian captains.


Image: Suresh Raina
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani
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'Captaincy is a big challenge for me'

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The first question was palpably pertaining to his assuming the role of a captain at such a young age.

And the answer was diplomatic to the hilt. 

"By the grace of god, it is a great opportunity for me. It is a dream-come-true, but also a good chance for me," gushed Raina, adding, "I'll work hard towards making this opportunity count and winning the series."

But isn't he feeling the pressure of leading the team?

"There's definitely pressure, but it is only the pressure to do well," explained Raina. "It feels great to be the captain of India, but at the same time there's also more responsibility on my shoulders.

"It is important for a captain to have a set of good players, and, fortunately for me, I have them. So it's a big opportunity for the young players and a big challenge for me."


Image: Suresh Raina and GVK Ranga Raju, captain and manager (Team India)

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'Dhoni has told me to keep it very simple'

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Raina was quick to point out what he learnt from the captain he has played under.

"Besides MS Dhoni, I have also played under Dada (Sourav Ganguly) and Rahul (Dravid), and I have learnt a lot from each of these players," he said, adding, "However, the manner in which Dhoni has handled the side in the last three years is simply great."

Has he taken any advice from Dhoni ahead of his first major tour as skipper?

"Dhoni has told me to keep it very simple," pat came the reply, before a rejoinder followed.

"I also spoke to a few senior players in our side and they said the same thing. I have spoken to Gary (Kirsten) personally as well," explained Raina.


Image: Suresh Raina and GVK Ranga Raju

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'We are a very balanced, young side'

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The pre-requisite of captaincy is to have full faith in the team and, in this regard, Raina seemed very much on target.

"We are a very young side and every one is keen to do well," said Raina, adding, "We have a good batting line-up and a good bunch of medium pacers who have done well in first class cricket and the IPL."

The captain was quick to pint out what he believed will be his side's biggest strength in Zimbabwe: it's fielding.

"If we make a total of around 240-250 there, it will look like 290 on board as we have got a very young team which puts in a lot of effort on the field," he reasoned.

Asked to analyse what he feels are the weaknesses in this team, Raina went on the defensive pronto.

"We are a very balanced side and I don't think we have any weakness per se," he replied.

"The only thing they have to keep in mind is when you are playing for India the feeling is entirely different than when you are playing a tournament like the IPL," he added.


Image: Suresh Raina

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'It is a chance to prove India's bench strength'

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Raina, at the same time, expressed his gratitude to the senior players.

"Generally, the senior players don't rest. So we should thank them," he explained, adding, "From a cricket point of view, it is a great opportunity for these youngsters to prove their mettle, to push themselves really hard and deliver the goods.

"And if they do manage to do well, it will help them get a chance in the ODI and Test teams in the months ahead."

Having said that, Raina was quick to throw in a hint of caution.

"At the same time, it is an opportunity for the team (on the whole) to prove that our bench strength the second rung of players is equally good," he said, adding, "It's going to be an exciting series in Zimbabwe."


Image: Suresh Raina and GVK Ranga Raju

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'I just want to come back with the Cup in hand'

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Considering there has been immense criticisms of post-match parties (during IPL III), will there be any restriction on the players in the coming tour?

"It's an individual choice," said Raina, in an obvious diplomatic tone.

"If some players believe in partying after the match is over, they also have to ensure that their intensity is always at the highest level," he explained, adding, "When you are playing international cricket, you are aware of the demands from your body."

So, is there any particular target that he has set for himself on his maiden tour as a captain?

"I just want to come back with the Cup in hand," concluded Raina.

The Indian team:

Suresh Raina (captain), M Vijay, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Pankaj Singh, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Naman Ojha.


Image: Suresh Raina

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