In an era when sportsmen are nothing less than celebrities who swagger extravagantly on and off the field, Suresh Raina is something of a throwback: a well-behaved young man who keeps his nose scrupulously clean. One might fancy comparing his diving and jumping skills on the field to that of Spiderman’s, as he without a doubt is one of India’s best fielders. He smashes the cricket ball across the ropes with immense skill, power and finesse that only gifted tennis players possess. He is an instant hit among the ladies with that pleasant face that always carries a smile, but is very shy to talk to one. One will always see him active on the field, constantly motivating his teammates on the field by clapping, cheering them up, hugging them or egging them to do better. He is a true sportsman in every sense and one of India’s finest.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Raina talks about his way forward.
Raina: Well, all I am aiming for is to perform well in every format of the game; it is the only way I can make a make my way into the Test team. I don’t compete with others, but compete with myself. I try to do better than what I have before. That said, I believe my ODI performances will be crucial for a comeback.
Q. Who do you think will succeed Dhoni as captain? Do you see yourself leading the side after Dhoni’s exit from ODIs?
Raina: The future is uncertain, and therefore I can’t predict it. As of now, I don’t see Dhoni retiring from the game. As a matter of fact, I have captained India once against the West Indies in an ODI which we won. But right now I am playing well for my country and I am satisfied with that. I’m not thinking of anything else at the moment.
Q. For Dhoni, you have been the man with the golden arm – you have taken crucial breakthroughs on various occasions when required. How seriously do you take your part-time bowling?
Raina: I work hard on every aspect of the game, whether it is my batting, fielding or bowling. I have started focusing on my bowling a lot more than before as it is important for me to be a good all-round player in the team.
Q. How different is it playing under Dhoni while at CSK and in the Indian cricket team?
Raina: Not very different really. Dhoni remains the cool and calm captain and person he usually is everywhere. So there’s not much of a difference that I have felt.
Q. You have been a part of Pepsi’s ‘Change the game’ campaign. What are your thoughts about football’s growing popularity in India? Do you follow any team?
Raina: We definitely have a lot of talent in our country for football. It is great to see football’s growing popularity and I really hope a larger number of corporate companies invest in the game so that one day we have a great team to boast about. I am a great fan of Manchester United.
Q. You have often been criticized for your supposed inability to handle the short ball in Tests. Do you think that is a valid criticism, or have you worked on this shortcoming sufficiently?
Raina: Well initially I had a little problem with the short ball, but not any more. I have worked on it a lot and improved as well; I am hoping I will tackle them well in future.
Q. Do you think the current generation of youngsters – yourself, Rohit Sharma, Kohli, Pujara, etc. is as good as, or better than the previous generation of cricketers like Tendulkar-Dravid-Sehwag-Ganguly-Laxman? Do you think your generation will be able to match their achievements?
Raina: The previous generation has been great – they are living legends of cricket and cannot be compared. Youngsters like me can only learn and get inspired by them. We all know Sachin is like the God of cricket and Rahul bhai is known as the Wall; it will take a while for us to match their level of achievement.
Raina: As a player, I like playing as much cricket as possible, irrelevant of the format. However, I think Test cricket is the ultimate form of cricket.
Q. You are the highest run-getter in the IPL. How does that feel?
Raina: I am very instinctive when it comes to the T20 format. It is a great feeling of course to have scored so many runs, but that is what I play cricket for: to score lots of runs. I hope to continue scoring many more runs in the upcoming tournaments.
Q. Are you all set for the upcoming Sri Lanka tour?
Raina: Yes, I have been training very hard in Bangalore, and right now I have been having some grueling sessions in Chennai. Hopefully, we will do well in Sri Lanka.
Q. There were rumours about you dating Anushka Sharma. Were those true?
Raina: They were just rumors. I would never date or marry an actress. I will marry the girl of my mom’s choice.
Q. Olympics are around the corner; who do you think will get the gold for us?
Raina: I think Sushil Kumar and our hockey team will bring us gold medals. I hope all the Indians participating do well and get lots of medals for us.Published 17 Jul 2012, 15:46 IST