There have been whispers of Suresh Raina losing focus on the game, being lax about his fitness and spending more time with the family then on the practice wickets. Recently, the BCCI gave him a reality check by dropping him from Central Contracts list. In a freewheeling chat Raina tells The Indian Express that he still is as passionate as ever about cricket and it was his daughter’s illness and his own ill-health that made him take a break from the game.
Are you thinking about life after cricket already?
“Nahi nahi,meiney aisa kuch nahi socha.. aap soch rahe ho kya?!” And Suresh Raina laughs. Times are indeed strange when a 30-year old is asked about his end-days but the last couple of months have been indeed awkward for Raina.
He didn’t find a place in central contracts of the Indian cricket board and a news report had a quote from an anonymous coach from his state Uttar Pradesh saying he is a reluctant cricketer these days and that his focus has shifted so much into his family that he isn’t interested in the game. That was the context for the question, and his fans would appreciate it being shot down by Raina.
‘Nurtured by my mother, found true love in my wife and understood real meaning of life with my daughter. I’m blessed. Happy #WomensDay’
For more awww-ness go to his twitter feed or better a fan page that tweets out his 11-month old daughter Gracia’s pictures. Life should be blissful – a close family, a cute daughter – and it probably is, but something or other seems to be happening in his cricketing life that drags him into blues. Or so it seems from the outside. Prod him, though, and he denies that all these stuff – contracts, reports about his alleged disinterest in game, bothers him too much but it has to leave residues.
“Logon ka kaam chahiye bolne ka – aisa hai, waisa hai,” he says. “I have to take my daughter to hospital, I have to do the work at home and I can’t see how people can criticise me for that? Bahar ka banda nahi aayega na yeh sab karne?”
His daughter Gracia, he says, wasn’t all that well and it had come on the back of his own illness – flu and chicken pox, which had left him miss out games in domestic cricket. “I had informed my state selectors and BCCI. And I had to pull out after playing few Ranji games and Duleep. If I don’t take care of my young daughter or get some work done at home, who will?
“It was a testing couple of months, and I had to miss out on cricket but circumstances were such – my health and my daugther’s. If that leads to criticism, then what can I say? Any family man can hopefully understand it – take bollywood for example: Shahid Kapoor took a decision to not act for 6 months after the birth of his daughter. Even Harbhajan Singh also took some time out with his new born daughter. All this can’t be criticised but logon ka kaam hai, kehna.”
Why are you fat Raina?!
Just as he takes a breather about family-man accusation, you fire the next barb, again something that has been murmured about here and there. Raina laughs again. “Arre! I was out for viral and illness, and couldn’t train much. It all had an effect but I am fully recovered now and started training. I am fit and ready to play IPL. Tabiyat kharaab tha, bhai, couldn’t train properly and logon ney shuru kar diya!”
His fitness would indeed be keenly watched, though. He has a tendency to put on weight – nothing alarming but it’s the optics that counts these days. There would be mumblings about his girth, whether he likes it or not – nothing that can’t be silenced with a few good violent knocks. “I have played for 12-13 years and not once has been my focus and dedication being questioned. What can I react when I don’t even know who this coach is? They didn’t take any name and I don’t know who it is. Koi be xyz kuch bol dega and what can I comment about it?And some nameless figure is now saying stuff or so the report claimed.”
Why did BCCI drop you from central contracts?
Earlier this month, BCCI came out with their list of central contracted players and Suresh Raina didn’t find his name in there. He had played a T20 game in February for India and usually if you had played for India in the last six months (before contracts are announced), the player would find himself in ‘C’ grade at the very least.
But Raina didn’t. Neither did Abhinav Mukund for that matter, who played a Test this month.
“As far as BCCI contracts, my understanding is that if in the last six months you had played for India, you would at least be slotted in the C group. And I had played in T20 game. So I don’t know what happened. I don’t know whether they have changed their rules. Anyway my focus is to get back to playing for India.
“I know when other players came in and did well for India. As a cricketer, that’s how it goes. You need to get back on weight of runs and I know that. Sometimes you need to play the waiting game, assess the situation and keep fighting, performing. I will do that.”
Has any bitterness seeped in? Would we still see the old smiling back-slapping Raina?
“Definitely. There is no bitterness. The people who say stuff also need to look at themselves in the mirror. Bolna aasna hai.. ac room mey baitke..and choti moti headline banana key liye. My attitude will remain the same. I will try to dominate with my bat, and spread positive vibes while on the field. I always play for the team and I am not now suddenly going to start playing for my self.”
The good news for Raina is that he is going to step into an event where he is a proven champion. For 10 years in IPL, he has been a vital player for his teams, and been a respected name.
He has looked assured and at home in this frenetic world of T20 cricket, and it’s here he will begin his attempt to comeback into the Indian team for the Champions Trophy. Unlike many of his potential replacements, he also pitches in with his off-spinners.
Another factor in his favour that he is the captain of Gujarat Lions, and as a leader, he doesn’t have time to indulge in any self-pity or get too consumed by the self.
“You can’t focus too much on yourself. You have to look after your team, strategise in preparation. Also, you need to look out for younger cricketers – help the team bond, give time to them. It’s like a family for one and half months. It will be all for the best. When you think good about others, good things happen to you.”