By Wisden India staff in Mirpur
West Indies has players “capable of hitting sixes” but are “not adept at rotating strike”, points out India batsman
Raina took three catches, including a fine effort running in from the outfield to get rid of the dangerous Shahid Afridi, and then struck an unbeaten 35 off just 28 deliveries with four fours and a six as he dominated an unbroken stand of 66 with Virat Kohli that took India over the line.
The break away from the national side allowed him to introspect and work on his game, said Raina, who sought out Sourav Ganguly’s advice in a bid to resurrect his ODI career, what with the 50-over World Cup less than 11 months away.
“I realised what I had done earlier, I analysed my game and what can be done in the upcoming games,” said Raina on Saturday (March 22), ahead of India’s second Super 10 Group 2 tie against West Indies. “I worked hard with my coach in the nets and played a few domestic games and now I’ve done well. I hope I will do well in the coming matches as well. I spoke to Sourav over phone; he is a sweet person. He just talked about my footwork; I am looking forward to working with him again.”
The seven-wicket win against Pakistan, earned with little fuss or fanfare, was just about the perfect way to start the tournament, Raina said. “It’s a very good win against Pakistan. It has set the momentum for us. There are still three more matches to go in the league, including against West Indies and then Australia. It’s a good platform, the first game,” he said. “When you play Pakistan, it’s a different feeling altogether. They have been doing well and we lost to them in the Asia Cup. But when you are playing a big team, the game plan always is to start well so that you can build momentum. Off the field, the Pakistani players are very good natured but when you are on the field, it’s a do-or-die situation for us, whether it’s a World Cup game or any other match. For us, as a country, it’s always important to win as many matches as possible. Between the two, whichever side handles the pressure well will win.”
West Indies presents a different kind of challenge, with its swashbuckling batsmanship and the twin spin threats of Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree. “We have (Amit) Mishra, who bowled really well in the last match. (R) Ashwin and (Ravindra) Jadeja too have been bowling well. But in T20, it all depends on who is better on that particular day and what you do after winning the toss,” said Raina.
“We have played two matches here and done well and our plan against West Indies will be to try and do well. Spinners will be the key for us, especially after the way we bowled yesterday against Pakistan, who play spin really well. But West Indies is a totally different team. They have a lot of players who are capable of hitting sixes and they are not adept at rotating strike. So it will be important to put pressure on big players at the start. The wins have set the momentum for us. We are looking good at the moment and just need to be positive.
“Pakistan had (Saeed) Ajmal and West Indies have Sunil Narine. In a short format like this, you have to plan every two overs as to whom to attack and whom not to. If you have wickets in hand, you can always accelerate because we have good ‘back-power’ in (MS) Dhoni and Yuvraj (Singh) to follow and Jadeja and Ashwin in the late order. When you get a start, it’ll be good for the batsmen. There is some turn for the spinners and you have to get under the ball to hit. Your thought process should be clear – if you want to hit it, you have to hit it. You will have to rotate between overs No. 7 and 11 and if you can hit a loose ball for a four or a six, that’s the ideal plan against spinners.”
It was important not to get caught up in the moment and get carried away, Raina said, insisting that controlling emotions would be the key against an aggressive side like West Indies. “We just have to go and play positive cricket. We have done well in the last two games. We have to make sure we play our best game. You know West Indies are big hitters and you just need to control your emotions, control your game plan as to what you are going to do against (Chris) Gayle or (Dwayne) Smith or (Dwayne) Bravo. We have played against them before, you just have to go there and give your best. We have to be in a positive frame of mind throughout 40 overs; whichever team is going to lose focus is going to lose (the match),” he said.
Of his own different approaches to batting in the two different limited-overs formats, Raina explained, “In one-dayers, my batting position is different. You have to look at the circumstances. You will have to rotate the strike a lot while batting at No. 5 or 6. Batting with tail-enders, I have learnt how to build partnerships with them. In T20, it’s a different thing, I know I’ll get only 10-12 overs to bat, so it is judicious to attack from the word go.”