At Eden Gardens for their match against Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday, captain Suresh Raina told his team that it was time for Gujarat Lions to 'restart', with his side floundering at eighth place on the table. He did exactly that, leading the way with a 46-ball 84 which gave his side a four-wicket victory and helped him become India's leading T20 run-getter.
In the previous match between the two teams earlier this season, Chris Lynn's systematic decimation of Lions' attack meant that Knight Riders had chased down 184 with ten wickets in hand and more than five overs to spare. Raina believed his team had played well in that game too, and wanted them to feed off the positive morale in the camp.
"Right from the moment I won the toss, I was getting a lot of positive vibes. I knew we had done well against them [KKR] in the previous game though the match got over in just 14 overs [14.5] when Chris Lynn hit us to all parts of the ground," Raina told iplt20.com. "That loss hurt the team and me. I addressed the team and told them this is the game where we restart and go all guns blazing. The team was high on morale when we walked out on the field and the result is there to be seen. I have been getting good support from Brad Hodge and Mohammad Kaif who have been spreading a lot of positive vibes in the team. It was a great team effort."
Lions' chase of 188 on Friday was hardly an easy one. Despite an aggressive start from openers Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum, the team was struggling at 122 for 5 in the 13th over, and went into the last seven overs needing 64. Raina negotiated the opposition's most effective bowlers - Kuldeep Yadav and Umesh Yadav - over the next few overs, eking out a boundary in every over. Once Sunil Narine's four overs were seen off, Raina went after Nathan Coulter-Nile, hammering the Australian fast bowler for two fours and a six in a 16-run over that brought the equation down to 17 runs off 18 balls.
Raina said that nearly a decade of watching and batting with MS Dhoni, in the India dressing room and at Chennai Super Kings, had helped him pick up lessons on keeping the required rate in check.
"I love batting in pressure situations and it is a challenge I relish," he said. "I have batted with him [Dhoni] for almost ten years now and always admired how he would finish games for the side. I have learnt how to cut down on asking rates from 9 per over to a 7 per over from him. The middle overs in a T20 game is very important and you need to take calculated risks. It is something that I did tonight and have learnt over the years. I was hitting the ball really well and looked to be positive throughout my innings though wickets were falling at the other end.
"When you are a captain, you are there to win a game and set examples for your side. It is something that I have learnt from Dhoni while playing with him for India and Chennai Super Kings."