June 26, 2011

'I've learned to keep my pull shot down'

Suresh Raina talks about trying to get better against the short delivery, becoming India captain, and coming back from knee surgery
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You are at a critical stage in your career. You became the ODI captain, now you are trying to cement yourself as a Test player. Unlike a few others, your attitude has rarely been questioned. How do you see yourself at this stage?
Gary Kirsten told me one thing when he met me: "Look to be honest with yourself, you have a different kind of approach to the game, you are a brilliant person on and off the field." It has been my motto to give my 100% on the field every time, and if I think I have done that, then I don't need to worry about anyone else.

I came up the hard way and the eight-nine years I spent in the hostel was really tough, away from family and friends. The quality of food was really low. I used to have a lot of discipline in life because I was studying in a boarding school, and there we needed to sleep at 9.30 pm and get up at 5 in the morning. When you lead India there will be lot of expectations, from family, from friends, and if you remain honest with yourself you can sleep peacefully.

So, is it now all about improving your skills as a Test batsman and grabbing that middle-order spot? The opposition bowlers like to target you with the short ball. What you doing to cope with it?
The issue with short balls is in the mind. I have got out to short balls a couple of times in Twenty20s, but I never got out that way in Test cricket. I have worked hard on it (facing short balls) since my debut. When there's pace and bounce you are bound to get out at times, but it's not that we [Indian batsmen] are unable to play the short balls.

From a personal point of view, I would like to keep my thinking clear and play straight as much as possible, and it's important because you won't often play bowlers who have pace of 140-150 kph at the domestic level. So you need to put that extra effort while training. I used to practice at the hockey ground on synthetic surface while I was in the sports hostel. So Test cricket is certainly going to be a challenge for me. It's an important season with series in England and Australia, so a big chance for me.

Have you spoken to anyone?
I have spoken to Rahul Dravid, and he told me to keep the thoughts clear. Try to have a blank mind. Players like Steve Waugh and Brian Lara had problems facing short-pitched balls, so it's all about your mental approach. It was a great advantage for me that Gary was also a left-hander in his playing days, and it helped me expand my areas as a batsman. I spent a lot of time with him in Dambulla ahead of my Test debut and in South Africa, and those were quality meetings. He taught me the importance of understanding the thought process of bowlers, building an innings and believing in my instincts.

Waugh rarely pulled or hooked. He either swayed out of the line or somehow managed to defend it. Have you decided on an approach?
I have not decided on any particular method like Waugh (not to use the pull shot). I have been practicing a lot against short-pitched balls in the nets, and in the IPL also I got some chance to play the short balls. After training with Gary I have learned to keep my pull shot down, as earlier it used to go a lot more in the air. Now I also go behind the ball and play a few taps through the gaps that help me to rotate the strike. I have to try to spend some more at the crease, and it's important to keep control over little things like head position, footwork, and how to approach each ball.

How has Duncan Fletcher helped you in this area?
He was telling me that you have to feel the fear [at net sessions], and you have to double the intensity in the match situations. He's an interesting person with a lot of different ideas. Once he was suggesting to us that why not take the batting Powerplay in the 20th over, instead of waiting for the 40th or the 45th over. I told him that we didn't have a great record in Powerplays in the World Cup. He has some ideas to improve our record in the Powerplays, which are very important in the one-dayers.

Have you been speaking to a mental-conditioning coach like Paddy Upton to understand the mind process in those moments?
I have spoken to Paddy Upton, and it's useful to a certain extent. I believe I am the best person to judge my mind, and I have to think about how I need to execute my plans. So, if I don't understand my mind and thought process, then nobody else can help me. When you watch Rahul, Sachin and Laxman bat, they are in a different zone as they hardly get disturbed by their surroundings, and you have to learn a lot from their sincerity.

Those players talk a lot about being in the zone.
I too have been in that zone a few times, when the ball connects with the sweet spot of the bat easily. I was in that frame of mind before the World Cup game against Australia. To be honest with you, when we were going for the pre-World Cup camp, the thought flashed across my mind that we are going to win this tournament. There will be a lot of expectations on you when you play a tournament like the World Cup, and if you can draw inspiration from those expectations then your game goes a notch higher. Sometimes it can add pressure on you, but I like that pressure. If you do well in those pressure situations then you'll get a lot of respect from your senior players.

"I had no godfather. I came up the hard way and the 8-9 years I spent in the hostel was really tough, away from family and friends. I used to have a lot of discipline in life because I was studying in a boarding school"

What's your emotional support system? How have you been coping with fame at such a young age?
I am very close to my family. I have learned a lot from my father. He used to tell me to be honest with yourself and not to argue with your seniors. You don't need to be involved in any quarrel, as sometimes you need to remain silent intelligently.

I never have issues in handling the fame. I was in a boarding school as I am from a middle-class family. We didn't have a lot of money, so we all learned to respect money, and understood its real value. I have four brothers and one sister, and they go through a lot to get proper education. I have always maintained that if you work hard, it won't go waste, as recognition will come to you at some stage, whether in studies or sports. You need to have good intentions and intent to move ahead in life as well as in sports.

You were out of cricket for a year almost. It was feared you might drift away.
I was out of cricket for more than a year after I had the knee operation, and I was walking on crutches. It was a tough period for me and I just stayed at my mother's house in Lucknow. A lot of people were saying that it's tough to come back from a knee operation, but I was determined to prove them wrong. After the operation I was struggling with my throw as well, so I used to play a bit of basketball, badminton and table tennis to get a bit of strength back in my shoulder. I also used to play carom so that the nerves on my fingers got stronger. I used to play in my room, as I couldn't move around a lot, but that training was important because I needed to get some strength back after six months of total inaction.

I did all this on my own, looking at books, and it's an advantage for me because I know my body well. I never was afraid of my comeback because I had a good domestic season. I got some runs in the Ranji Trophy, I became Man of the Match in the Challenger Trophy, and I used to speak to Viru bhai (Sehwag). He's a very positive person, and he used to tell me go out there and play bindaas (without fear) and enjoy the cricket.

And now you have not only come back but also became the ODI captain. Are you enjoying it?
I felt good when I got to know about the captaincy from the selectors. It's a great honour to lead your country, and Sachin too wished me during a function in Mumbai. I also got messages from Rahul bhai and Anil bhai [Kumble]. I was just trying to enjoy the game and stay in touch with the team-mates, and yes it was a dream come true for me.

I had a small meeting with Harbhajan. He's the senior bowler and handles the bowlers well. I have played with Dhoni for some five-six years and I know how his mind works and how he handles each player and respects them. We had a lot of meetings with Gary before the World Cup, and though small, those were quality meetings. I learned a lot of things from those meetings - how to plan, how to dominate a bowler, how to bat according to situations. In Chennai Super Kings, we had meetings where cricketers like Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, our coach Stephen Fleming, Ashwin, Badrinath, Vijay and Doug Bollinger used to attend, and those meetings were really useful for me.

And now the Tests. After this, the big tours of England and Australia coming up.
I am getting stronger mentally as a player and an individual. As long as I remain mentally strong, nobody can stop me from achieving my goals. At the same time, I have to be disciplined, respectful to my seniors and I have to respect the game. I need to play my natural game but I also need to be clever and realise against which bowler I need to take risks and whom I should leave alone.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kpatel10 on June 28, 2011, 21:12 GMT

    @Sumeet.Gupta I don't think Kohli is ready yet. He is lacking confidence to play in test. Same for Badrinath. The way badri played in one day series, He is not ready too. I think Rohit Sharma need to get chance now as Murli Vijay is not successful at the top of the order.

  • khiladisher on June 27, 2011, 21:36 GMT

    Sunil gavaskar,sachin tendulkar,Rahul dravid, virender sehwag,vvs laxman,saurav ganguly,gundappa vishvanath,dileep vengsarkar,mohinder amarnath,mohamad azaruddin,yuvraj singh ,dhoni,gambeer-NOW RAINA THE TRADITION OF GREAT POWERFUL MIGHTY INDIAN BATTING CONTINUES.

  • kanishkazico on June 27, 2011, 14:12 GMT

    Raina has very good attitude, if he can improve against short bowing, he can have a bright future in Test Cricket as well, at the moment Pujara should be ahead of him in pecking order in Test cricket.

  • Percy_Fender on June 27, 2011, 12:45 GMT

    Actually a slight correction.Mohinder Amarnath was hit wicket to Rodney Hogg on that occasion in Bombay in 79. The ball was short and Amarnath went back to it. Too far back. He was donning a sola toupee. And when he got out it seemed very odd. The selectors knives were out and Amarnath went out of the team. This mind you after he made his debut against Australia in 69 and played for ten years. This included the series against West Indies in 1976 in the Caribbean.The series that is remembered for the blood and gore on display at Kingston Jamaica, when Bedi declared India's second innings to avoid further injury to the players. Amarnath scored over a fifty in the first innings of that Test.That series was the one in which India chased over 400 to win the Test at Port of Spain. Amarnath scored a hundred in that chase. Against the likes of Holding,Roberts,and the rest. This will show that the courage was not lacking as the case is with Suresh Raina. He just needs to do some finetuning.

  • Sumeet.Gupta on June 27, 2011, 10:11 GMT

    I hope it is not one of those many false dawn which we are used to see with Yuvraj Singh. I still believe he's suspect against quality pace bowling. I would still keep Kohli, Sharma, Pujara, Badri above him in the pecking order for the Great Indian Middle Order Rush!

  • Vijay_MatchWinner on June 27, 2011, 8:27 GMT

    Good attitude. He has a good future

  • Dale-force_winds_steyn_the_pitch on June 27, 2011, 7:16 GMT

    He's a talented player. If he manages to succeed in his battle against the short ball, he will be a key player for India in the future. I still think Kohli will take over the Tendulkar mantle when Sachin leaves, though. I see a future Indian Test middle order of 3 Kohli, 4 Raina, 5 Pujara. That will be a good middle order in the future. I Don't think it will be as good as the Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman middle order, but it will still be one of the best in the world. South Africa, England and India will have the best middle orders.

  • Sai111 on June 27, 2011, 5:50 GMT

    GO RAINA YOU ROCK AND BEST OF LUCK WITH THE REST OF YOUR CAREER

  • on June 27, 2011, 5:18 GMT

    Suresh Raina,the future star of Indian cricket. He might travel a few more yards than Virat Kohali and Sharma because of the superior attitude that he has. Good luck man, you deserve it.

  • RajaDinakaran on June 27, 2011, 2:36 GMT

    No comparisons ,Sometimes during the last test match(INDvsWI) I had a feeling that sachin was batting left handed. His(Raina) approach was good and should carry on throughout his carrier. All the best Raina.....

  • kpatel10 on June 28, 2011, 21:12 GMT

    @Sumeet.Gupta I don't think Kohli is ready yet. He is lacking confidence to play in test. Same for Badrinath. The way badri played in one day series, He is not ready too. I think Rohit Sharma need to get chance now as Murli Vijay is not successful at the top of the order.

  • khiladisher on June 27, 2011, 21:36 GMT

    Sunil gavaskar,sachin tendulkar,Rahul dravid, virender sehwag,vvs laxman,saurav ganguly,gundappa vishvanath,dileep vengsarkar,mohinder amarnath,mohamad azaruddin,yuvraj singh ,dhoni,gambeer-NOW RAINA THE TRADITION OF GREAT POWERFUL MIGHTY INDIAN BATTING CONTINUES.

  • kanishkazico on June 27, 2011, 14:12 GMT

    Raina has very good attitude, if he can improve against short bowing, he can have a bright future in Test Cricket as well, at the moment Pujara should be ahead of him in pecking order in Test cricket.

  • Percy_Fender on June 27, 2011, 12:45 GMT

    Actually a slight correction.Mohinder Amarnath was hit wicket to Rodney Hogg on that occasion in Bombay in 79. The ball was short and Amarnath went back to it. Too far back. He was donning a sola toupee. And when he got out it seemed very odd. The selectors knives were out and Amarnath went out of the team. This mind you after he made his debut against Australia in 69 and played for ten years. This included the series against West Indies in 1976 in the Caribbean.The series that is remembered for the blood and gore on display at Kingston Jamaica, when Bedi declared India's second innings to avoid further injury to the players. Amarnath scored over a fifty in the first innings of that Test.That series was the one in which India chased over 400 to win the Test at Port of Spain. Amarnath scored a hundred in that chase. Against the likes of Holding,Roberts,and the rest. This will show that the courage was not lacking as the case is with Suresh Raina. He just needs to do some finetuning.

  • Sumeet.Gupta on June 27, 2011, 10:11 GMT

    I hope it is not one of those many false dawn which we are used to see with Yuvraj Singh. I still believe he's suspect against quality pace bowling. I would still keep Kohli, Sharma, Pujara, Badri above him in the pecking order for the Great Indian Middle Order Rush!

  • Vijay_MatchWinner on June 27, 2011, 8:27 GMT

    Good attitude. He has a good future

  • Dale-force_winds_steyn_the_pitch on June 27, 2011, 7:16 GMT

    He's a talented player. If he manages to succeed in his battle against the short ball, he will be a key player for India in the future. I still think Kohli will take over the Tendulkar mantle when Sachin leaves, though. I see a future Indian Test middle order of 3 Kohli, 4 Raina, 5 Pujara. That will be a good middle order in the future. I Don't think it will be as good as the Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman middle order, but it will still be one of the best in the world. South Africa, England and India will have the best middle orders.

  • Sai111 on June 27, 2011, 5:50 GMT

    GO RAINA YOU ROCK AND BEST OF LUCK WITH THE REST OF YOUR CAREER

  • on June 27, 2011, 5:18 GMT

    Suresh Raina,the future star of Indian cricket. He might travel a few more yards than Virat Kohali and Sharma because of the superior attitude that he has. Good luck man, you deserve it.

  • RajaDinakaran on June 27, 2011, 2:36 GMT

    No comparisons ,Sometimes during the last test match(INDvsWI) I had a feeling that sachin was batting left handed. His(Raina) approach was good and should carry on throughout his carrier. All the best Raina.....

  • Maui3 on June 27, 2011, 2:30 GMT

    On One hand he wants to be ""Look to be honest with yourself" and then he says "I never got out that way (with short balls) in Test cricket". You dont need to get out to short balls to have a serious weekness against short balls. You can get out to a yorker or a slower ball, when you are expect a short ball and dont have the technique to cope with a short ball bacause you are going to find yourself positioned to play short ball in a pre-meditated fashion like he does. You just need to watch the clips on how he played out of position in S Africa test earlier this year. Having said that, he is gutsy and hard working and may find a way to score runs despite his lack of technique (like Segway or Laxman to a lesser extent does)

  • CricketChat on June 26, 2011, 23:43 GMT

    Raina already played some very useful knocks in his brief Test career so far. His talent is unquestionable and has exhibited the right attitude so far, it all depends on his own efforts how far he can go. Wish him well.

  • on June 26, 2011, 23:09 GMT

    A guy so well grounded will figure his way....I wish he develops into another great indian batsman. All the best.

  • getgopi on June 26, 2011, 21:27 GMT

    "...of his inability to keep a short ball from hitting the stumps"

    @Tennyson Short balls back then must have taken a more mellow trajectory then :)

    What I like about Raina is his no-nonsense, clean shots square of the wicket and he is capable of this as soon as he arrives at the crease. It should be interesting to see how his leg side shots start to look once he becomes comfortable against the short ball.

  • MasterClass on June 26, 2011, 19:50 GMT

    @Anand Bharadwaj - I think the "being respectful of seniors" is just the talking points that Suresh might have prepared for the interview. In reality we can see for ourselves that he's respectful to all, but more than that he's a real team player. So no issues there. In regards to the hook shot (versus the pull shot) I think that the player needs to understand the concept that the hook is quite similar to the glance in that the batsman just helps the ball along the way to the boundary (this is obvious because for both shots the batsman has to be "inside the line" to correctly execute the shot. A hook fetched from middle & off is incorrect). There's no need to generate any power, since it all comes from the speed of the ball. Once they get this concept and execute the shot correctly a few times it becomes easy. A hook is simply a shoulder-high glance! Once you realize it's all about timing, not power, it becomes a LOT LESS intimidating for sub-contintent players, who are natural timers.

  • Awad on June 26, 2011, 16:26 GMT

    Maybe not as technically tight as Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli, but Suresh Raina is a team man and the hungriest of the lot. His attitude will take farther than his ability. Good luck bro.

  • Percy_Fender on June 26, 2011, 15:02 GMT

    Mohinder Amarnath used to have difficulty facing short balls in the early part of his career. He was out in the Bombay Test against Australia in 1979 to Rodney Hogg because of his inability to keep a short ball from hitting the stumps. He was dropped after that match and came back only against Pakistan in 1982. He was one of the success stories of that tour and later in West Indies as well. There despite being hit by Malcolm Marshall he just would hook him for six. This was because when he was out of the team he just practised for hours on end. When he came back, he was so good that Imran Khan and Marshall hailed him as the best player of fast bowling in the world. Raina is similar. He just needs to practice 24/7 till he gets over this problem because he is an excellent player otherwise. I wish Fletcher and Dravid are able to bring about this even during the current West Indian Tour.I say this because the West Indies have a very good fast bowling attack.

  • on June 26, 2011, 14:48 GMT

    Suresh Raina is a quality player ,i have seen him playing since 2005 , when he and kaif take the u.p. team to new era of domestic cricket ,since then he really worked hard ,his first series against pakistan ,he is the top scorer in that series,a brilliant all rounder.a late entry in tests but now he can proved his dexerity .

  • viaESPN on June 26, 2011, 14:19 GMT

    ur major drawback is tat u r not kept memories in peoples n not making us faith about u. ur body language k, try to make descent 50,100 with som classy shots. becaus 100, 50 1ly satisfies both u n us not the huge sixes alone. maintain avg, Dont pull the ball in air always,cause tats ur weak point , despite shot pitch balls pbms. first focus y u r been ther n wat to do make mind lucid. u hav age but abt ur futur depends on how u approchin game.

  • TeamIndiaAlwaysRocks on June 26, 2011, 11:19 GMT

    all the best raina...you are the future of team india

  • deepu1469 on June 26, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    there is no interconnection between the discipline and talent .... u got d runs on board coz u got d talent to do so .. dont mess up.. dont give wrong statement to younsters... dont be a bad roll-model...

  • SibaMohanty on June 26, 2011, 8:44 GMT

    This kid is tough and humble too. He wants to improve continuously and he has shown that intent. That is the hallmark of a sportsperson aspiring greatness in life. Suresh is in good company. All the best.

  • mitgop11 on June 26, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    Looks like Honesty and Respect are his two secrets to success. "Shape", perhaps, could be the third one!

  • ScreenDarsh on June 26, 2011, 7:47 GMT

    He is a very good cricketer, but I feel that he will struggle in tests more than ganguly. He has got good head, but I feel kohli and rohit will move ahead in time.

  • vissu295 on June 26, 2011, 7:32 GMT

    Raina is a strong character. He plays very well under pressure. I feel he should play as many matches as he could outside of the subcontinent to improve his technique against short pitched bowling. He has age on his side and the level of maturity he shows is a good sign for the Indian team in the long run, even in test matches.

  • rustyryan on June 26, 2011, 6:27 GMT

    This is why Raina should be first choice cap'n even ahead of Gauti, Bajji and Virat. He is a guy who can control his emotions on the field. And has a great attitude and character. He may not be as tactically good as viru. But still Raina's calmness is very much needed in future.

  • Mahesh4811 on June 26, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    Wish you all the success that you deserve :-)

  • on June 26, 2011, 6:01 GMT

    U rock Raina you have improved a lot as a player.. keep it going boy.

  • Seshadrisharma on June 26, 2011, 5:37 GMT

    good one " At the same time, I have to be disciplined, respectful to my seniors and I have to respect the game"

  • CricEshwar on June 26, 2011, 5:18 GMT

    Raina seems to have a strong character which one may not assume by seeing him on the field. I wish him all the luck to cement his place in tests and do the usual in ODIs and T20s.

  • on June 26, 2011, 4:55 GMT

    There's so much "being respectful of seniors" which keeps coming up. I guess its a good thing but too much of it can also be detrimental in a team sport, especially if you are also supposed to be a leader.

    On the other hand, shouldn't you be respectful of everybody, seniors and juniors alike?

  • on June 26, 2011, 4:29 GMT

    Wish you best of luck Raina. Somehow I liked you as a batsman as well as a person from the beginning. But an year ago I used to fear that you will end up as a ODI player alone. As you realized, work hard and be honest to you. We want to see you achieving more and establishing as a great future star.

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  • on June 26, 2011, 4:29 GMT

    Wish you best of luck Raina. Somehow I liked you as a batsman as well as a person from the beginning. But an year ago I used to fear that you will end up as a ODI player alone. As you realized, work hard and be honest to you. We want to see you achieving more and establishing as a great future star.

  • on June 26, 2011, 4:55 GMT

    There's so much "being respectful of seniors" which keeps coming up. I guess its a good thing but too much of it can also be detrimental in a team sport, especially if you are also supposed to be a leader.

    On the other hand, shouldn't you be respectful of everybody, seniors and juniors alike?

  • CricEshwar on June 26, 2011, 5:18 GMT

    Raina seems to have a strong character which one may not assume by seeing him on the field. I wish him all the luck to cement his place in tests and do the usual in ODIs and T20s.

  • Seshadrisharma on June 26, 2011, 5:37 GMT

    good one " At the same time, I have to be disciplined, respectful to my seniors and I have to respect the game"

  • on June 26, 2011, 6:01 GMT

    U rock Raina you have improved a lot as a player.. keep it going boy.

  • Mahesh4811 on June 26, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    Wish you all the success that you deserve :-)

  • rustyryan on June 26, 2011, 6:27 GMT

    This is why Raina should be first choice cap'n even ahead of Gauti, Bajji and Virat. He is a guy who can control his emotions on the field. And has a great attitude and character. He may not be as tactically good as viru. But still Raina's calmness is very much needed in future.

  • vissu295 on June 26, 2011, 7:32 GMT

    Raina is a strong character. He plays very well under pressure. I feel he should play as many matches as he could outside of the subcontinent to improve his technique against short pitched bowling. He has age on his side and the level of maturity he shows is a good sign for the Indian team in the long run, even in test matches.

  • ScreenDarsh on June 26, 2011, 7:47 GMT

    He is a very good cricketer, but I feel that he will struggle in tests more than ganguly. He has got good head, but I feel kohli and rohit will move ahead in time.

  • mitgop11 on June 26, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    Looks like Honesty and Respect are his two secrets to success. "Shape", perhaps, could be the third one!