Close to eight years at the international level and yet, Suresh Raina the cricketer isn’t content.
Having earned flak for not performing up to expectations in the T20 and ODI series against Pakistan, Raina worked overtime on his batting and the result is there for all to see — a Man of the Series award against England and a place in the top 10 of the ICC player rankings for ODI batsmen.
But it is not just about the shorter formats for one of India’s vital cogs.
Raina’s mission is to get back into the Test side and cement his place, after having been part of just 17 games compared to 159 ODIs and 36 T20Is.
Raina said his personal success had stemmed from the burning desire to score runs consistently.
“I think the desire within to make it as a permanent member of the Test team and the intent to play as many first- class matches as possible has really helped me a lot. And that is the reason for the success that I achieved in this series. This was my first Man of the Series award and I think the hard work that I put at the nets with [ coach] Duncan Fletcher, [ bowling coach] Joe Dawes and [ fielding coach] Trevor Penney has really helped me,” Raina told Mail Today.
Raina breaks into top 10 for first time
Coming in at number five, Raina aggregated 277 runs from four innings at an average of 92.33. The best part was that he scored a fifty in all the four innings he played — showing that the effort to be consistent is indeed reaping rewards.
Raina feels the time he spent in domestic cricket has really helped him improve his fitness as well as concentration and the results are showing in his batting.
“After being dropped from the Test squad, after the series against New Zealand, I spent quality time training for my state team — Uttar Pradesh. That span of time really helped. Even in the nets, I was looking to not get out.
I was thinking of the situations that I would face in a match and how I would overcome them. Consistency is really important and that is what I was looking at achieving. You can’t score runs in a match and then falter in the next couple of games. That is an area I worked on,” the 26- year- old batsman from Ghaziabad said.
Raina says his hunger made him work overtime and also concentrate on his fitness and not just his batting skills.
“Even during the ODI series, I would come in early and work on my fitness.
The three-day gaps between matches gave me time to work on other areas and not just my batting,” he said.
UP coach Venkatesh Prasad says Raina had promised him he would take permission from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and get exempted from playing in the fifth ODI in Dharamsala so that he could play for UP in the Ranji Trophy final, had the state managed to qualify.
“Right from the start of the domestic season, he had made his intent very clear to me. I could see the desire in him to get back into the Test squad.
Not only did he work hard with us at the nets, he even told me that if we did manage to qualify for the finals of the Ranji Trophy, he would take permission from the BCCI and the team management and represent UP, skipping the fifth ODI. That shows the hunger he has in him to prove himself in the longer format of the game,” Prasad told Mail Today.
With Yuvraj Singh failing to do justice to the number six position and MS Dhoni’s ploy to play four spinners in the last Test against England in Nagpur flopping, Raina could very well see himself back in the whites for the upcoming series against Australia.