When it comes to the IPL, and more specifically when he is wearing the canary yellow of the Chennai Super Kings, Suresh Raina is a different beast. In each and every season of the IPL before the ongoing one, Raina has made at least 400 runs. This year has been no different for Raina as he has scored 456 runs with four half centuries.
Robin Uthappa, Dwayne Smith and Glenn Maxwell top the batting charts but Raina has been the epitome of consistency in T20 cricket.
At the start of this month, he became the first player to cross 2,000 runs in the IPL and when it comes to hitting sixes he is second only to Chris Gayle.
And while his critics and the purists continue to mock at his records in the shortest format of the game by placing it against his average one in Tests, it is hard to ignore the impact he makes in Twenty20.
Raina produced another match-winning knock, an unbeaten 54, as the Chennai Supers Kings chased down 174 with six balls and seven wickets to spare and in turn knock-out defending champions Mumbai Indians on Wednesday.
One of the major reasons for Chennai’s success over the years; they will reach their sixth final if they beat Kings XI Punjab in the Qualifier 2 on Friday, has been the ability of skipper MS Dhoni and Raina to finish off games.
“The important thing is that we have handled pressure really well, over the last seven years,” Raina said after the game against the Mumbai Indians. “When you know you have a captain like Dhoni and a coach like Fleming, it helps. Whoever handles pressure well in T20 wins battles,” he adds.
Thriving on pressure
Pressure , especially the kind that comes when one bats lower down in a Twenty20 game, is something that Raina thrives on. He is one of the few batsmen who can strike the ball with the sweet spot of his bat from the very first delivery he faces.
Even when not in prime form, like in the semifinal of the World T20 against South Africa, Raina (21 off 10; most runs came off edges) has the knack of keeping the scoreboard ticking because he backs himself to hit the ball out of the park.
“When it comes to batting you have to execute strokes really well. At the same time you need to back your strengths. Over the years I’ve learned a lot from Mike Hussey, Matthew Hayden, Stephen Fleming. Playing with them over seven years has helped. And then there’s MS. When you have players like this in your team, you tend to learn a lot,” Raina pointed out.
The batsman though is also quick to credit the bowlers at the end of the Eliminator. “We bowled really well: Ashish Nehra, Ishwar Pandey, R Ashwin, Jadeja . I thought we would be chasing 200. In between we got wickets. The bowlers set the tone for us. Then we had two very good partnerships,” he said.
Raina and the Super Kings will be hoping for a similar performance against the Kings XI Punjab come Friday.