One series loss does not make India bad - Raina
Although the 2-1 series defeat to Bangladesh has generated severe critique against India, Suresh Raina, after the 77-run win in the third ODI, has said that one poor show during an otherwise prosperous season is not grounds to vilify the team.
"The team's graph is going upwards definitely," he said. "These were the last matches of the season. We don't know when we are next playing one-days. We have done quite well in the format and we are still No.2 in the world. It's not that you become good or bad in just one series."
India have won 14 out of 20 ODIs in the 2014-15 season, putting them third behind Australia and New Zealand. That also provided reason for Raina to stick to the same argument regarding MS Dhoni's role as captain.
"You can't disrespect him and what he has achieved," Raina said. "He has won so many trophies for BCCI. At the same time he's a good human being, good honest man. One series can't make him bad. He's a good leader. Everyone loves him in the dressing room. There's still a lot of cricket left for him. So just wait for some time."
Having stuck to his role as finisher for a long time, Dhoni has hiked himself up the order to try and lend India's middle order some backbone. He struck 69 off 77 balls to help India to its only win on this tour.
"The way he [Dhoni] has batted in the last two games has showed how important No. 4 is for him," Raina said. "He has taken a lot of responsibility over the years and he showed it today as well. He set the tone for us today with Shikhar [Dhawan]. Me and Stuey [Binny] had a good partnership after the 40th over, you can execute [big shots] later on. Look at the kind of players we have. Look at Ambati Rayudu, he batted really well with MS also. So If you have a partnership of 70-80, then you can easily accelerate later on.
That meant Raina, with his experience, became the designated finisher. He took to the role quite well on a slow pitch in Mirpur, striking 38 off 21 balls, helping India rack up 90 runs in the last 10 overs. While admitting that the chances of success batting lower down the order are up and down, he did say he was better suited to the role now.
"No. 6 is not an easy position, you have to accelerate," he said. "Sometimes you get runs, sometimes you don't. But still you need to be positive in your mind. I am really happy. I have worked really hard with Ravi [Shastri] and at the same time Sanjay Bangar has really helped me a lot as well. Like I used to bat at leg stump, but Ravi said if you stay at middle you can play your shots over cover, over mid-off, over mid-on [better].
"My mindset has improved over the years as well. I have learned how to bat with the tailenders. When you are not scoring runs up front, you need to just look to bat really well with whoever comes in. Whether it is Jadeja, Axar, Ashwin, Stuart or Harbhajan...because you need to get a lot of runs towards the end because getting totals of 260-280 are easier to defend."
Having expressed a desire to bat higher in the line-up and shape an innings, Raina conceded that he was happy to pitch in however he could.
"No regrets moving down the order. I just want to win games for India. I can score a quick 40 or a quick 80. But still when we won the World Cup in 2011, I scored 35 not out against Australia and 37 not out against Pakistan. That's my best innings ever. I would love to bat up the order, but whatever the team needs me to do, I just have to take that responsibility."
A part of that has been to chip in as a part-time bowler, especially on slow pitches like in Mirpur. Raina said, apart from "working hard" on his offspin and tidbits from R Ashwin, his instincts as a batsman comes in handy.
"You know that five fielders are in and you have to contain, not let them rotate the strike. It's pressure on the batsmen too, chasing 300 and they know that five fielders are inside - that gives a chance to bowlers if you bowl a good line and length. I know how a batsman plays in that situation because when I'm batting, my mind also works like that. So I have some experience of bowling in those situations."
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo