MELBOURNE: In a team full of stars, Suresh Raina has been happy to maintain a relatively low profile, going about his work for India calmly and without any fuss.
But as the cricket World Cup heads into the knockout stage and the pressure starts to build, India’s reliance on Raina is becoming more evident and he’s finding it harder to keep out of the spotlight.
In India’s opening match against their fierce rivals Pakistan, Raina blasted 74 off just 56 balls, helping the defending champions post a winning total of 300.
Then in India’s final pool game against Zimbabwe, it was the left-hander who saved his country’s blushes, scoring an unbeaten 110 to guide his team to victory with just eight balls to spare.
“When the team needed me the most and when you deliver it’s the best feeling,” he told a news conference on the eve of Thursday’s quarter-final against Bangladesh.
“I really love those pressure situations. I have done that in the past. In that game I got plenty of overs to chase that target so I was very happy to win that game for my team.”
A superb fieldsman and handy spin bowler, Raina’s importance to the Indian team has been steadily rising since he made his one day international debut in 2005.
He was dropped for the 2007 World Cup but was part of the team that won the 2011 title, albeit his valuable contributions were overshadowed by his more famous team mates.
Later that year, he captained India on their tour of West Indies when some other senior players pulled out of the series.
Now 28, he is one of the elder statesmen of the team, offering advice and assistance to the regular skippers Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
Raina also plays a vital role in the middle-order, batting in different positions depending on the circumstances he’s needed for.
“Whatever the team needs me to do, I need to prepare myself,” he said. “Because at the end when team India wins that’s more important than me batting at four, five, six.
“I have improved a lot as a player. I’ve learnt a lot from MS Dhoni and especially with Virat.
“I’ve played a lot of matches with them and I knew what sort of batting I needed to do and I’ve played a lot of matches up and down the order so I think I’ve become a more mature player after 2011.”