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Stand-in captain Raina is an admirer of Sourav & Dhoni

- EXCLUSIVE

- ‘I’d like my players to be hungry’

Suresh Raina

Calcutta: Suresh Raina, who will be captaining India in the three-match ODI series in Bangladesh, spoke to The Telegraph from his Ghaziabad residence on Wednesday afternoon.

Raina has been a stand-in captain in the past as well and has a 4-5 record in ODIs and 3-0 record in T20Is.

Excerpts...

Q Captain in Zimbabwe four years ago and in the West Indies in 2011... You must be delighted at again getting the responsibility...

A Definitely... I’ve done well in the IPL, which just got over, and it’s an opportunity to take my form forward and help India win the series.

You’d been dropped for the Asia Cup, in February-March, so it’s going to be a 50-over comeback. Did being left out make you more determined?

It hurts when you get dropped, but I focused on quickly making a comeback. I had to quickly dust off the disappointment... I was there for the World T20, which followed the Asia Cup and, now, I’m captaining India.

What’s going to be the No.1 challenge?

Switching from the T20 to the 50-over mode... The team I’ve been given has a nice blend of experienced campaigners and rookies. We’ll have to make the most of the practice sessions before the series begins, on Sunday.

Two of your bowlers — spinners Akshar Patel and Parvez Rasool — haven’t played for India...

But both are very talented... Akshar, in particular, had a wonderful IPL and was adjudged the Emerging Player. He should be high on confidence.

Bangladesh will be at full strength. How do you rate them?

No opposition is to be taken lightly, but I expect Bangladesh to be under pressure... They neither did well in the Asia Cup nor in the World T20, despite being the hosts.

Captain Mushfiqur Rahim has been critical of India’s decision to rest regulars such as captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and vice-captain Virat Kohli...

(Passionately) It’s not about players, but two countries... Indeed, a series is like a war. You’ve got to go out and win it.

With the World Cup just eight months away, every ODI series will be important. Do you agree?

Of course. By recalling some players and picking three uncapped ones (batsman Kedar Jadhav being the third), the selectors have sent out a message... It’s an opportunity for the players to make a statement. Bahut achcha mauka hai impress karne ke liye.

What are your expectations?

I’d like my players to be hungry... I’d like them to make the most of the exposure which awaits them.

This time, you’re captaining India in the subcontinent. Isn’t that an advantage?

I know the conditions in Bangladesh very well. So do Manoj Tiwary and Wriddhiman Saha, who’re from Calcutta. But being familiar with the conditions is only a part of the story.

Won’t you still feel the pressure?

That I have options will lessen the pressure... As I’ve said, I’ve got a good mix of experience and newcomers.

As captain, what did you learn in Zimbabwe?

That, at all times, you need to think of the team... That the team has to move in one direction... That the players must enjoy their cricket.

Have you looked up to a captain?

When I was dreaming of playing for India, I used to admire Dada (Sourav Ganguly)... He encouraged youngsters and instilled the belief that matches can be won overseas... Dada’s contribution won’t be forgotten... In recent years, I’ve been amazed by the calmness shown by MS. It’s an experience playing under him, seeing the cool manner he handles situations. He’s created such a good environment... As a batsman, MS is one of the iconic finishers in limited overs cricket. There’s something to learn there too.

You must have spoken to Dhoni after getting the captaincy...

We had a chat in Mumbai (at the end of the Chennai Super Kings’ campaign in the IPL).

Well, what did Dhoni say?

That I should enjoy the captaincy, enjoy my game.

What should captains do/not do?

A captain has to put his best foot forward where man management is concerned... A captain has to take decisions in the best interests of the team, not look at who is a senior or who is a junior... A captain shouldn’t encourage a situation where some in the team seem to head in a different direction. Mahaul to achcha hona chahiye.

Your thoughts on the blinder (87 off 25 balls), one of the great T20 innings, you played against the Kings XI Punjab, in Mumbai?

(Laughs) I was in my zone... That’s the best way to put it... I didn’t look at the target... Didn’t look at the bowlers... Just played each ball on merit... Being in my zone took my batting to another level... Pity we still lost.

You took 20 runs off one Mitchell Johnson over...

So it turned out! People say Johnson’s very quick... Well, I did help myself to some runs.

What exactly is ‘my zone’?

It’s almost all to do with the mind, being positive and playing with freedom... Not being restricted by the circumstances... I’m thankful to Dada for his tips, earlier this year.

Specifically, what did Sourav tell you?

To stay positive... To be particular about the movement of my feet.

You’re a centurion on Test debut, but your last appearance in the longest format was two years ago. Are you reconciled to not being considered for Test cricket?

I’ll fight back. I haven’t given up.

Are you now more comfortable against the short-pitched stuff?

Maine apne game par kaam kiya hai.

The other day, Ravi Shastri told me that he’d include you as the 19th player for the five-Test series in England...

I’m thankful to Ravibhai... Grateful for his kind words... It’s nice to know that he sees me as an option for No.6 in Test cricket. However, the selectors have to take the call.

You’ve been playing international cricket for nine years. How much has life changed?

Aap mujhe jaante hain. Have I changed as a person? Is safar ne kaafi kuch sikhaya hai... I’ve learnt to respect the game, respect fans... I’ve learnt to stay humble... For all the adulation, I continue to eat daal and roti. That hasn’t and won’t change. I come from a simple background and know the value of staying grounded... In fact, I’ve learnt a lot from Sachinpaaji (Sachin Tendulkar).

The last one... Coming from a close-knit family, what have you absorbed the most from your parents (Tirlok Chand and Parvesh)?

To play honestly... ‘Imaandaari se khelna’... They’re deeply religious and keep praying... For India, for me... Their belief is that prayers get answered.