Suresh Raina, on Tuesday, described Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the “greatest captain” he has played under and said it helped him become a better person.
Having just returned from the triumphant tour of Australia in the T20I series, Raina was in the capital for the unveiling of the logo of Gujarat Lions, the IPL franchise from Rajkot. He was named captain of the side, while former Australia all-rounder Brad Hodge would be the coach.
“Leading the Gujarat Lions would be a new experience in the IPL… I am looking forward to it. In CSK (Chennai Super Kings), I played with the greatest captain and came out as a better man and a matured player,” Raina said.
Raina said he felt honoured to be part of the Rajkot franchise. “We already have some of the best cricketing talents in the team and I look forward to the challenge, the opportunity and the excitement. I would love to lead from the front and should be a great debut,” said Raina.
Asked to describe his experience on the recent tour of Australia, Raina said the victory in the T20I series has given India the required confidence to go for the kill in the World T20 starting next month.
While admitting that Australia did rest some of their top players for the T20I series, Raina said beating Australia in their own backyard was never an easy task.
“Our victory only showed that we played well there and India definitely hold an edge in the World T20. Otherwise, we would not have been the No. 1 team in the world. Credit should also go to the captain and the support staff for their good work in this series victory,” said Raina.
A seasoned campaigner in limited-overs cricket, Raina described how Yuvraj Singh and he steered India to a thrilling last-over win in the third and final T20I match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“During the third ball of the last over, Yuvraj told me whatever happens, we have to run a single. Before that, he had already taken the pressure off with a four and a six. After I ran a two, Yuvraj said he believed I could finish the match. Thankfully, I managed to do that,” said Raina.
Asked what should be his batting position in the World T20, Raina said a lot would depend on how one would want to execute the plans in a particular situation.
“Batting up the order in T20 is important, as it helps you plan and execute your targets. I have played at No. 3 for CSK (Chennai Super Kings), but the team is almost set for the World T20.
“With me, Yuvraj, and Dhoni at No. 5, 6 and 7, we should be able to play fearless cricket.”
In the coming IPL, Raina, a long time teammate of Dhoni at CSK, will be in different camps. Dhoni will lead the Pune franchise, the other newly introduced side in the tournament. The two new teams were introduced after CSK and Rajasthan Royals were suspended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Asked how he would feel while playing against Dhoni in the IPL, Raina laughed and said it would be a challenge for them to stop the Indian limited-overs captain, especially his trademark helicopter shot.
“Dhoni and I have played quite a few finals together… He’s the greatest captain I’ve played under… It would be a challenge to stop Dhoni from playing the helicopter shot. We talked in Australia about how we will be in different teams… It should be fun.
“Imagine (Ravindra) Jadeja celebrating after dismissing Dhoni,” laughed Raina.
Raina said he was looking forward to players’ auction on February 6. “I am excited about the auction and will sit down with the team management to decide on the players,” he said.