November 12, 2012

'I know I am built for Test cricket'

Suresh Raina talks about wanting to prove his Test credentials, his rapport with coach Duncan Fletcher and his friendship with captain MS Dhoni

How frustrating has it been to be excluded from the Test squad after playing a valuable knock in the second Test against New Zealand?
I don't know. Maybe I was thinking that I was going to be selected but that's a part of the game. Sometimes you do well and sometimes you don't. I have a couple of Ranji games. I have played two and I am going to play a couple more before the selection for the third Test. I am enjoying the Ranji Trophy and not really thinking about the selection.

In hindsight, do you regret playing that lofted shot off Jeetan Patel in the second Test versus New Zealand?
No regrets. If the shot had worked, then the fielder would have been pushed back and then I could have taken singles. After playing that shot, people started talking that it was the wrong shot to play. But I know that if I had hit the shot then I could have worked out my singles near mid-on and mid-off. We had to chase. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. At the same time, I am working on playing down the ground.

Would you have preferred to be in the squad but not be in the eleven instead of playing domestic cricket?
I think it's better to play domestic cricket than just sit in the fifteen. Yuvraj [Singh] has made a good comeback after recovering from his ailment and he will get priority. Lots of matches [are] coming up, against Australia we have four Test matches [to play], and there are quite a few one-day matches. I am just concentrating on playing [domestic cricket], doing my fitness and hope to do well in the upcoming games.

Did any of the new selectors talk to you after the selection?
Sandeep Patil sir [the chief national selector] had come [to watch the Ranji game in Pune] and said that I was the main guy in the team. He said that I shouldn't worry and just concentrate on the game. He said that I will make a comeback soon. He is a good human being. He has played a lot of international cricket and he knows what a player feels. So I felt nice when he walked up to me and gave me confidence.

How do you respond to those who tag you as a one-day specialist despite you having played 17 Tests?
People will talk about me being a one-day player but let them talk, I know I have time. [In Tests] I have been out eight or nine times to spinners and I am working on that. I have won Twenty20s and ODIs for India, [but] haven't got such a chance in Tests. I know I am built for Test cricket. I have done well in Tests. I played well in the West Indies [last year]. The first Test in England also went well for me. I am working hard. The number six or seven slot is a difficult one to bat at. Henceforth, I will ensure that I will prove I am capable of being a good Test player whenever I get a chance.

Do you agree with the criticism about your weakness against the short ball?
People talk about the short ball. I am leaving the ball well, I am playing it well. If I couldn't play the short ball, well, then I wouldn't have scored in the West Indies and also in England. People talk about all Indian players not playing the short ball well. We are working on it. Everyone is discussing it and we are getting better. I am feeling good, my body weight is balanced and mentally I am approaching the ball well. No player is perfect and he takes time to master a particular thing.

You recently said you wouldn't mind hiring a personal batting coach. Has the time come for more batsmen to hire such experts?
You can absolutely have a personal batting coach. You are earning a lot of money and you should invest that in coaches. Everyone thinks differently. Praveen Amre was my coach for a long time, I am comfortable with him. Gary Kirsten [former India coach] was a left-hander, and Stephen Fleming [Chennai Super Kings coach] is a left-hander too. Now we have Duncan Fletcher as the coach. Coaching is different at all times, Ranji Trophy is different. International cricket is different. I personally believe that domestic coaches are good for communication. They have seen you bat and they can talk to you about your game. You are getting a lot of money in the IPL but you can utilise the money. There is no harm in that. You can invest the money in a good way.

How has been your experience of working with Duncan Fletcher?
He is very good. His batting style is very good. He has got various tips. For me it's important how much confidence he gives you because you can't really change a player's batting style, but he helps us [a lot] and his knowledge is very good. He is a very experienced coach, he has also been a good player and he is really helping us.

How do you deal with the age gap while interacting with him?
He looks old but he is not. He is very knowledgeable and he wants to share his experiences and his good times with all the youngsters. He communicates well with the players.

What sort of small adjustments has he suggested to you?
He does give me a lot of tips. Small things. We have spent a lot of time together in the West Indies and also played a lot of matches in India. He gives you little tips and if you want to do it then you adopt that tip in your technique. If not, then he will try and explain it to you in a different way.

What are the advantages or disadvantages of being friends with the captain [MS Dhoni]?
I am not a friend of the captain. No one in cricket is a friend. He is a professional cricketer and I am a professional cricketer. Off the field, everyone is friendly but on the field everyone looks at their own performance. Dhoni and I play for the same team, Chennai Super Kings, but apart from that there is nothing. People perceive that we are friends but then the same can be said about Sachin [Tendulkar]and Zak [Zaheer Khan]. You need to use the word friend in the right context.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo