Suresh Raina is playing the patient game. He has no other option and he understands that. Two years ago he was earmarked for the future but he dropped off the radar, having failed to regain his mojo after which the team management lost its patience. He went back to domestic cricket to work out his faults but it was not a smooth drive and he had to encounter obstacles and navigate tight corners to work his way back into the Indian dressing room.
"I didn't make use of the time I spent in the middle", Raina admits reflecting back on the form slump he faced in 2006 after starting off his international career on a high note. After returning home midway through the series in South Africa in December 2006 Raina scored a century against Tamil Nadu in a Ranji Trophy game. The selectors gave him another chance when they picked him for the last two ODIs of the home series against West Indies. Raina only played in the final game in Chennai, and his 23 was the last score he made for India.
Soon it was back to the domestic grind but Raina suffered a knee injury during the one-day domestic tournaments and had to undergo surgery. He didn't let that interfere with his focus and tried to work on his shortcomings. "I had to improve my footwork and my fitness is much better now", he said.
Raina agrees it is tough to make a comeback after one year, but he is now more positive and derives confidence from that. "I play very positively whenever I play any form of cricket. It's good for me I got some big runs in the Ranji season. It's always tough to come back, but the Indian players spoke with me to keep my confidence high."
Raina proved he had recovered completely from the injury with handy scores for Uttar Pradesh which played a crucial role in getting his side to the final for a second time in three years. UP lost the final to Delhi but Raina had scored 683 runs in eight Ranji games, including a double-century, a hundred and three half-centuries. In addition he worked on his fitness and more importantly sought to understand different match situations, which he feels is the key to success in the middle.
He learnt by watching the seniors. "His [Tendulkar] practice session is different: his batting style, the selection of the balls is good learning. He has always been good at understanding the position of the game and adapts accordingly." Raina now intends to do the same as he talks about the changes he has brought into his game during his break from international cricket. "Now I keep myself in a positive frame of mind and make sure I read the situation, understand the player at the other end and adapt", Raina said, stressing that he has been working hard in the nets despite not yet getting a chance in the CB Series campaign.
He understands that getting a chance in the series isn't going to be easy since there are at least four players vying for the same No. 6 position. With Mahendra Singh Dhoni coming in at No. 5, Raina will first have to compete with Yuvraj Singh who, despite his minor form slump, will still be favoured for his experience. Dinesh Karthik and Manoj Tiwary are also waiting for call-ups.
But competition and batting position don't bother Raina too much. "What mattes is how you read the situation. I learned a lot of Yuvraj batting at No. 6. So I don't see any pressure", Raina said, pointing out that there was still one more practice session before the next game against Australia on Sunday. With four more games left in the league phase Raina is not losing hope yet.