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August 27, 2008
After his second consecutive half-century helped India clinch their maiden bilateral ODI series win in Sri Lanka, Suresh Raina credited his success in the Indian Premier League as crucial to his second coming at this level.
"I played well and I learned a lot, which helped me," he said. "The hesitation I had about playing big shots has completely gone . My mind is working well and I'm in a good groove. Getting a chance to play with seniors again has benefited me. "
Raina scored 421 runs for the Chennai Super Kings, with three half-centuries at a strike-rate of 142.71, and his performances in the IPL undoubtedly helped in his recall to the one-day side.
For too long had Raina flattered to deceive. Perhaps the pressure got to him, perhaps he was ushered in too early; what was clear was that he failed to deliver despite the obvious talent. After failing to manage a half-century in 15 innings he lost his place in the ODI side for the tour to South Africa in 2006-07. He was recalled for two ODIs against the West Indies in January 2007 but was dumped for an entire year. Then came the Asia Cup, where he made two centuries - three years after making his debut - to finish as the second-highest run-scorer in the tournament.
"It's all coming good at the right time," he said. "I've received a lot of backing from the support staff and coaches, especially when preparing. This is a very good team and we just have to maintain the intensity."
Raina has been around the block, and he's glad to be back. Even though he's yet to find a settled position in the batting order, he said he "loved" the chance to play international cricket again.
"I don't have a preferred number," he said when asked about how he has batted at Nos 3, 4 and 5 recently. "It depends on the team combination. Whenever and wherever I play I have to give it my best shot. I'm glad I could contribute and I'm enjoying taking on the responsibility."
In this series, Raina's positive footwork and shot selection have been impressive, and like Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag during the Tests, he revealed how he handles the threat of the spinners. "I watched their hands closely, and my plan was to read their actions and play in the 'V'," he said. "I was able to read them easily out of the hand. I didn't have too many hassles."
In games such as this, it needs at least one batsman to stick around, and Raina and Dhoni did that wonderfully up to a point. They secured their feet before playing their flamboyant shots. It was their second successful association in two matches. "Even in the nets Dhoni tells us how to plan," Raina said. "He reads the game extremely well. He's played with a lot of responsibility this series and you get to learn a lot batting with him."
Raina was quick to point out the stellar performances of India's pace attack in a series expected to be dominated by spin. "Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel and Zaheer Khan have done outstandingly," he said. "Look at the result. They've worked hard in the nets and in matches and you have to give credit to them. You need to improve and set a tempo and we've played really good cricket here. We had lost the Asia Cup final in Pakistan and were really keen to do well. We gave a really good show."
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