India news March 8, 2014

Raina eyes comeback after Ganguly support

ESPNcricinfo staff

Suresh Raina has said he piled too much pressure on himself of late even as critics were "obsessed" about his numbers. Raina was dropped from the India XI during the ODIs in New Zealand with just one fifty-plus score in his previous 24 innings and was not picked for the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. He is part of the side for the World T20, though, and wants to do well after taking tips from former India captain Sourav Ganguly on matters as varied as making a comeback and handling the short ball.

"When you are down and out, that's when you realise who is ready to help you, who is your friend and who can be a good guide," Raina told ABP News. "Sourav Ganguly was one such man. I spoke to him and he instantly was eager to help me. We spoke a lot, and he told me that I needed to work hard on my footwork, and on my mind. He is a good coach of batting and motivated me a lot when I was mentally down. Our batting style also is very similar and we spoke about the short ball, footwork and making a comeback. I got a lot of positive vibes from dada (Ganguly). He told me a lot on trusting my own ability, and spoke about minor things that I had overlooked for some time."

While Raina admitted that making bigger scores would have helped his cause, he said people did not appreciate the worth of smaller, but important, innings he had been getting down the order. "Every channel I watched and every newspaper I read, I realised everyone was only talking about my form, and how bad it was. They kept arguing that I have had no half-centuries in the last 25-odd games and how my averages are in a particular format, and so forth. There is an obsession with numbers and statistics, but that is so harsh on a cricketer. He cannot be judged purely by statistics, performance is subjective.

"I have played several crucial 35-run knocks coming down the order, it's not easy to play with tail-enders. People never realised that India has often ended with chasing in a lot of these ODIs, and batting lower down in chasing a target is a high-pressure job. Only MS Dhoni and Mike Hussey have a good average in world cricket batting so lower down."

With his performance under so much scrutiny, Raina said he had started to walk in to bat in each game thinking it could be his final match. "Lately, I used to get onto the field thinking I have to do well, this is my last chance to bat, this is my last chance to get a big score, this is the last catch I will be taking. So I needlessly put undue pressure on me and it made me nervous, and that's where I made a mistake. I started thinking that every match is my last match, because suddenly it seemed everyone was only talking about me."

Raina did not think he had been unfairly targeted, though, and felt he could have done better. The time away from the team had given him space to work on his game, which did not require any major changes, Raina added. "I am not making excuses. I made mistakes, I could have got more fifties, more runs. I lost my concentration at crucial times that led to my downfall before. But what I am saying is I love to play for my team, not for an individual score. In this break, I have realised one thing very clearly, there is no need to change my game. I only need to get better at playing my style. I am a 30-ball 50 batsman and I would never try and become a 60-ball 50 batsman.

"I have learnt to take my time at the crease, try and bat more consciously and the need to score lot of runs. I have seen my old videos and that has given me a lot of confidence, it has made me realise of the mistakes that I have made. It has been 7-8 years that I have been playing virtually non-stop cricket. I got no rest and this time it was a forced break. In many ways, it helped, though as a player you never liked to be dropped. It allowed me to spend time with my family, be a good son and allowed me to recharge again to play cricket. I played the Vijay Hazare Trophy and got some good practice before the World T20."

Raina said he was hungry for runs and confident going into the World T20, adding that he had recognized during the Asia Cup that the team "needed" him. "I saw the Asia Cup sitting at home from a third man's perspective and realised that the team needs me. I have a role to play with this team. I just need to get back among runs, do well at this World T20 and maybe force my way back into the ODI side with the 2015 World Cup in mind."