New Delhi: Gujarat Lions take on Kolkata Knight Riders in their opening game of the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on Friday. While it is important for both teams to start off on a winning note, one man who is looking to make a statement from the word go is Gujarat skipper Suresh Raina.
Having faced adversity and criticism head-on right through his cricketing career, Raina wants to answer all critics with the bat in this edition of the cash-rich league. Having decided to keep quiet and focus on his game and fitness going into this year’s tournament, Raina took time to answer a few questions from CricketNext. The answers were short, but the intent clear.
A lot of questions were raised because even though he had lost his place in the Indian ODI team for the series against England, Raina didn’t play in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament or the Vijay Hazare Trophy. While he was ill as was his daughter, critics didn’t lose an opportunity to question his commitment.
But the Uttar Pradesh batsman says he is looking to make the most of the opportunity when he walks into the park for Gujarat Lions this season.
Nobody can deny the fact that when it comes to the shortest format of the game – T20 – Raina is undoubtedly one of the best in the business. Even though he doesn’t boast of a hefty built like a Chris Gayle or Kieron Pollard, the Gujarat Lions skipper can still pack a punch.
In fact, he is the second highest run-getter in the history of the IPL with 4098 runs in 147 games with a strike rate of 138.53. He has a century and 28 fifties to his name. Till the start of the ninth season, Raina was topping the chart, but a brilliant season for Kohli saw the Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper overtake Raina in the final game of last year. Kohli now has 4110 runs from 139 games with 4 hundreds and 26 fifties.
Raina does realise the importance of scoring big in this edition if he wants to reclaim his place in the Indian team going into the Champions Trophy. The BCCI has made it clear that Raina needs to perform to return to the squad. In fact, in a shocking move, the BCCI even overlooked the senior pro while announcing the annual players’ contract in March. But Raina isn’t perturbed and is ready to face the challenge.
While Raina is all geared up, Gujarat have a couple of injury woes with all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo lying low with injury issues. While Jadeja has been advised rest for two weeks to recuperate from issues with his spinning finger, Bravo is undergoing rehab after a surgery thanks to a hamstring injury suffered during the Big Bash League. But Raina wants to stay positive and bank on those available.
“Injuries are a part and parcel of a sportsman’s life and you cannot do much about it. But we have come along well so far after joining the squad and everyone here is looking good,” Raina said, hinting at the likes of Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, James Faulkner and Jason Roy among others.