Rightly known as Mr. IPL, Suresh Raina said batting at No. 3 has given him that “freedom” to play his natural game after the left-hander became the first batsman in the history of the tournament to complete 5000 runs.
Needing 15 runs before the match, Raina managed 19 runs to achieve the landmark as Chennai Super Kings defeated Royal Challengers Bangalore by seven wickets in the season opener. Apart from playing two seasons for now-defunct Gujarat Lions, Raina has been associated with Chennai since the inception of the competition and has been their most consistent batsman.
“I have been playing at No. 3 from the start and it allows you to play a lot of overs. My batting style is quite attacking. Batting at that spot gives me a lot of freedom and it also allows me to bat according to the conditions,” Raina told his teammate Harbhajan Singh in an interview for IPL’s official website.
“I have played with so many players and have taken the responsibility of scoring runs for my team. I also get that license of attacking inside first six overs.
“It’s not always easy and you have to live in the present. I am really happy that I went past 5000 IPL runs and we got a good win the very first game of this season.”
However, it was Harbhajan who emerged as the true star for Chennai and was named Man of the Match for his performance. The off-spinner got rid of Virat Kohli, Moeen Ali and AB de Villiers in his spell and broke the back of Bangalore’s batting.
Having been out of match practice for the last 12 months, the 38-year-old admitted that he was under a bit of pressure but now feels like he still belongs here.
“I am really happy. Yes, I was under a bit of pressure because I didn’t play a lot of cricket before this match. I only played three games for Punjab but it was good to come here and practice, get my rhythm back,” he said.
“I was called to bowl just in the second over and once I bowled a couple of deliveries, I realised “sher budha hua hai but shikar karna nahi bhula (this old lion can still hunt)”. We got help from the surface, not much with the new ball but the old ball was turning a lot.
“It was a challenge for me to perform for my team and getting Virat, AB and Moeen was very satisfying. Hopefully, I can keep contributing with ball and bat, if needed.”