Why I Love Raina? Trust me, it is one of the most difficult task in this world to list out the reasons of loving a person, especially when that person has absolutely no idea even about your existence. It would not have been a difficult question, had it been asked 10 years earlier. A younger me would have replied “because he is so cute” However, over the years I have grown as a cricket fan and have refrained from supporting cricketers only because of his good looks. So, now I am not just a fan girl of Suresh Raina but his hard-core fan.
I was probably in class 7th or 8th when he debuted against Sri Lanka and his first 50 came against England in an extremely important match. Team India was struggling with 5 wickets down when Raina came in to bat and scored 89* along side Yuvraj leading the Team to victory. The way he handled the pressure considering the fact that he was very new, in fact, just 7 matches old, was a clear sign that he had all the potentials of being a key player and performing brilliantly in situations like these. Another such instance is the league match against Zimbabwe, a minnow side which was quite high in its spirit, in the WC2015. India was already 4 down while chasing a huge total of 287. Then Raina came in to bat and along with Captain Dhoni led the Team to a convincing victory by scoring an unbeaten century (110*).
One of the very common reason why most people love him is his ability to hit sixes and that too so elegantly. There have been many instances when he had more 6s contributing to his total than 4s. This is one of the major reasons why he is considered to be one of the most dangerous players in the death overs and also an extremely important player in the limited overs format.
Another important aspect of the shorter formats is rotating strikes . He is among the fastest runners between the wickets especially with Dhoni or Virat on the other side. Singles are easily converted into doubles and doubles into triples when he is batting with either of the two. Obviously it is a combined effort of both the players running but with someone like Raina on the other end, rotating strikes will never be an issue and this definitely helps in tackling pressure situations while batting.
His crisp fielding gives him an additional edge as a player and has been an integral part of Team India’s fielding strength for a while now. Fielding good comes just so effortlessly to him that even the toughest of the catches appear to be so easy when Raina is aiming for them. His fielding makes all the more difference in low scoring and crunch matches.
Talking about another aspect of fielding itself, there is one very special thing Raina does while in the field. He appreciates every bit of good fielding by his teammates and motivates them to do even better. If I would have been the part of team, I would have wanted to field next to him not because I love him, rather because every time the ball came to me, he would come to pat my back. He is always the first one to reach the bowler when he takes a wicket or in case if the bowler isn’t being good he would still be their to instill positivity through his words. Qualities like these make you stand out in this era of aggression. There are hardly any instances of him showing aggression on the field or getting involved in a verbal spat with any other player. Most of the times he steps on to calm such situations. Off the field, he is often seen to be a happy go lucky man. It won’t be an exaggeration if I call him the “Good Boy of Cricket”.
Speaking of his secondary responsibilities as a team member, he has served as a part-time bowler many a times and is exceptional on flat tracks. However I consider this as more of a captain’s achievement because, it is Dhoni’s confidence in him and his idea of rotating bowlers that gives Raina a chance to bowl in the middle overs and most of the times it has turned to be a favorable decision. This shows that he has always kept captain’s confidence in him and has performed whenever he was granted the opportunity. For instance, the quarterfinals of World Cup 2011, where he was played in the place of the in-form Yusuf Pathan and he scored 74 along side Yuvraj against Australia leading the team to Semis where again he played a match-winning decisive knock of 36* against the arch rivals Pakistan. Moreover, whenever he has been conferred with captaincy in the absence of seniors, he has led the team to victory, be it the West Indies tour of 2011 where he was praised by the legends of West Indies themselves or the Bangladesh tour of 2014 which was extremely low scoring. Lately, he joined as full fledged captain for Gujarat Lions in IPL9 and his team performed exceedingly well making it to the playoffs considering the fact that it was their debut season.
All these years he has been my favorite cricketer but still there are concerns that I have as a fan and I am sure he must also be having them as a player. One of them is his consistency issues, no doubt he always performs in pressure matches and has driven the team out from the most difficult situations but this is something he should be doing more consistently. He is an extremely important player and considering the number he comes to bat on, his main motto should be to lead the team to a secured total or finish off unbeaten while chasing. But most of the times he perishes a bit earlier which hampers the overall team performance. The other issue is his Test Credentials, which is a very critical problem because a player is always best known for his Test Records and also because Test Cricket is the real cricket. Though has a debut Test century but it alone is not enough. Probably this is the only place where he hasn’t been able to exploit the opportunity as and when it was given to him. As a fan, I will always want him to have a great Test record and also be a consistent performer.
At the end, I would just say that people may keep saying that he seldom performs, can’t handle short ball, is in the team only because of Dhoni, plays irresponsible shot and whatever else, but I will still love him for those match-winning finishes, long sixes over the deep mid wicket, exceptional catches & direct-hits, warm & friendly attitude, calmness and smiles and above all his never giving up spirit.