Cricket World Cup: How an effervescent Suresh Raina was crucial in India's 2011 triumph
The 2011 Cricket World Cup was a close affair and ended with an interesting final in which fortunes swung several times before the hosts emerged victorious at the Wankhede Stadium. India had started off brilliantly thanks to Zaheer Khan while Sri Lanka banked on the elegant Mahela Jayawardena to take them to a more than respectable total of 274. After that, Lasith Malinga shocked India by dismissing both the openers in quick time before the unsung hero Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli steadied the innings and laid the foundation for MS Dhoni to take India to victory.
It is worth saying that India despite managing hefty totals in the opening games against Bangladesh and England, left a lot to be desired in the field. Even in the next few games, it looked as if the opposition could sneak singles and doubles at will. Talks of M.S. Dhoni being a reactive captain than a proactive one surfaced again and there were massive concerns around India's potential to lift the cup.
At that time, there was also the batting power play under the control of the batting team where the Men in Blue had planned to use Yusuf Pathan but his presence yielded very little results. Except for an unbeaten 30 against Ireland, Pathan had little to show in the tournament.
It was just before the knockouts that the team management wisely decided to bring in Suresh Raina - a gifted stroke maker and a handy spinner back into the playing XI. But his biggest virtue was his fielding and the energy he brought to the field. The whole approach of the team changed once he was drafted in as opposition batsmen had second thoughts on taking him on and there were no singles granted for pushes and prods. In effect, Team India emerged as a different outfit which had shrugged off their lethargy.
Raina did not score even a single half-century in the tournament but his gem of an innings against Australia; where he scored at more than run a ball was critical in taking India home. Had he got our early or played a few dot balls, it would have sent the hosts into panic mode. In the semi-finals, he held the lower order together against Pakistan ensuring the team crosses 250 - a score which proved more than enough considering Pakistan’s lack of intent and some smart bowling from Dhoni's men.
These appear to be cameos when one gets to see the scorecards but upon deeper look into the match situations, the knocks go down as invaluable efforts. The difference in the field and the freshness that Raina brought with himself rubbed on the others too and India marched into the finals and lifted the title.
All those who questioned the team during the group stage on the decisions made and the team combinations were countered with the old adage that a team peaking at the right time is the one that lifts the trophy. As another world cup beckons, Virat Kohli would want his players to follow Raina's lead and make the difference when called upon.
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