To say that being in-charge of the Indian team is one of the most daunting propositions in world cricket may not quite seem like overstating the fact. Of the many responsibilities an Indian cricket captain is faced with, it is often the relentless and hard-to-please media back home, which proves to be a stiffer and unforgiving challenge than any opposition he comes across on the field.
At least, Suresh Raina, who will become the 20 th ODI captain for India-and the first from Uttar Pradesh- in Zimbabwe, passed his first test satisfactorily, displaying a calm exterior during his first-ever pre-tour press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday evening.
When asked-on a number of occasions-if regular Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni-who also leads Chennai Super Kings, the IPL franchise that Raina represents-had passed down any tips, the 24-year-old left-hander only revealed that he was asked to keep things simple. And while it remains to be seen whether Raina does heed his skipper’s advice when it comes to the action in Zimbabwe or not, he did stick to it during the press-briefing by keeping his responses ‘simple’ and cliched.
“It is a great opportunity, and I am looking forward to the challenge,” got reiterated by Raina at least four times the number of international games that his young pace-attack has managed between them for India.
And his opinions remained the same regarding both his personal goals as well as that of his young team.
Getting the opportunity at such a young age though did come as a pleasant surprise, believed Raina, and he expected his team to live up to their billing of the second-best ODI team in the world. “It was always a dream but it is a great responsibility. The seniors don’t often take breaks from the game and now that they have, it is up to the bench-strength to rise and do well. A good performance here will go a long way in enhancing their future opportunities,” he explained.
While almost the entire Indian team faced the wrath of the media following their disappointing exit from the World T20, Raina was the only one left unscathed. After all he was the only Indian batsman to have totaled three-figures in the tournament, finishing with over 200 runs, including a century against South Africa. He believed that it was up to the likes of Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli to rise to the occasion and make the most of the seniors’ absence.
“They have all scored a lot of runs in the IPL and in domestic cricket but the onus is on them to replicate that form for India now,” said Raina.
Of the many criticisms that were stacked against the Indian team, it was their poor fielding that came under the scanner the most. But Raina believed his young team would prove a more athletic unit in the field. “We will run harder and are fitter. And if we score a total of 240-250, we will make it look like a 280+ target with our fielding,” said the new Indian captain. With conditions expected to assist fast bowling, Raina believed his team’s strength would be his pace-bowling department led by the inexperienced lot of Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar, Pankaj Singh and Ashok Dinda. “We have bowlers like Umesh who have pace and can trouble the opposition batsmen in those conditions,” he said.
Unlike Dhoni or most of his predecessors, Raina at least signed off on an optimistic note rather than sticking to a well-rehearsed diplomatic tone, insisting that there were no weaknesses in his side and that returning with the trophy was his sole objective as an Indian captain.