Mirpur: India’s Suresh Raina says that most of the top-order West Indies batsmen prefer playing big shots rather than rotating strike against spinners, an area which he feels can be exploited by Amit Mishra and Co when the two teams square off in the ICC World T20 on Sunday.
Asked about the threat the explosive opening pair of Chris Gayle and Dwayne Smith could pose, Raina said, “West Indies will be a totally different team as they have a lot of players who can hit sixes but they don’t have an idea about how to rotate the strike against spinners by taking singles and twos.
“Therefore, the more pressure we put on the bigger players, better it will be for us.”
The in-form left hander said that Amit Mishra’s bowling will again be key while countering the likes of Gayle, Smith and Samuels.
“We have Mishra, who has done well in the last match. Ashwin has also bowled well and Jadeja is doing well too. But T20 is dependant on who is better on that particular day.
“Also depends on what you intend to do after winning the toss. Spinners will be key in this contest. Especially in the manner, we bowled against Pakistan, which plays spin really well.”
Elaborating on the role of tweakers, Raina said that overs 7-11 will be key against the slower bowlers.
“About facing spinners, it’s not that there is great turn (on this track) but some turn available. While shaping up for a shot, you need to come under the ball.
“Your thought-process should be clear. If you think you want to hit it then you should go ahead and if you decide against it then be it. Between 7 to 11 overs, is the time when you need to rotate the strike well. If you get even one loose ball, if you can convert it into fours and sixes, then it’s good.”
For shorter formats, Raina wants that batsmen should try to achieve smaller targets.
“Definitely, Pakistan had Ajmal, West Indies has Narine. In these shorter formats, you have to plan for two overs. You need to decide whom to attack and whom to defend. We have good middle-order. We have Dhoni, Yuvraj and then Jadeja and Ashwin. So if we get a good start, we have batsmen down the order.”
Making a comeback into the side after being dropped from the Asia Cup squad due to repeated failures in ODIs, Raina has been in good form of late with scores of 41, 52 and 35 not out.
Asked what he did during the ‘forced break’, Raina said, “I did what I had done earlier. I analyzed my game and what can be done in upcoming games. I worked really hard at nets with my coach. I also played a few matches in domestic tournament (Vijay Hazare Trophy).”
Raina said he enjoyed playing the role of a finisher and he would try to win as many games as possible for India.
“My game is such that irrespective of the format, my aim is to win as many matches as possible for India. Touchwood, God has been really kind as the last 2-3 matches have really gone well,” Raina said.
“But the tournament has just started and a lot of big matches are still left. We would like to play with the same kind of momentum, it will be good for us.”
Momentum is the key in a big event like World T20 and most of Raina’s answers had this one word in common — momentum.
“I think it was a very good win against Pakistan for us. When you are playing in a World Cup and you win the first game against Pakistan, it sets the momentum. There are still three more games to go. We need to do really well against West Indies and Australia,” Raina said.
Sticking to the gameplan will be key for India against the big names of West Indies like Gayle, Smith and Bravo and Raina said there’s no need to change their basic approach.
“We don’t need to change our approach. We will go out there and play positive cricket. We have done well in the last couple of matches. We need to control our gameplan and also control our emotions when we face Gayle, Smith and Bravo. We have to go out there and play our best cricket,” he stated.
Raina also thanked former India captain Sourav Ganguly, who had given him some technical tips.
“I spoke to him (Sourav) over the phone and he is a sweet person to speak to. He just mentioned a few things about my footwork and also on the mental aspect of the game. I am looking forward towards working with him again,” he said.
He said he did not believe Caribbean players regularly playing in IPL would be of any bigger help for them.
“We have played a lot of matches against West Indies. In fact, we have played them in West Indies also. We know some of their players inside out and know what kind of gameplan they will employ and how dangerous they can be.
“Similarly, they know our team has good fast bowlers and good spinners. Important is stay positive as whoever is going to lose the focus will lose the battle. Look to be positive all throughout 40 overs and Almighty will look after us.”
Raina was questioned whether he had realised that his natural game was an attacking one, he gave a completely different answer.
“My batting position in ODIs is different from T20Is. In ODIs, you have to read the situation batting at No 5. Having batted with tail-enders, I have learnt how to bat in partnerships. In T20s, I might get to bat for 12 overs.
“Like yesterday, me and Virat had planned that Saeed Ajmal is their strike bowler, so we would look to attack other bowlers like Umar Gul and Junaid. Twenty20 is such a game where the gameplan changes pretty fast and you have to take decision about whom to attack and whom not to attack.”
Much has been written about his weakness against short-pitched deliveries and Raina claimed that he has worked on that area.
“In T20 Internationals or ODIs, whenever you get short balls, you can get out sometimes. I am trying to play the short ball down. I am trying to watch the full ball. Hope I will do well in the coming matches,” he said.
Asked as to what does he think about Gayle and Marlon Samuels, Raina shot back, “What do you think about MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh?”
He agreed that winning the match against arch-rivals Pakistan gave a relaxing feeling.
“Pakistan have some very good players and off the field, their nature is great. But on the ground, it’s a do-or-die situation, whether you play Asia Cup or World Cup. For us, it’s important as to how many matches we win for the country against them.”