World Cup will be a fight among India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka: Raina
New Delhi: Young middle-order batsman Suresh Raina reckons that with the dominance of four-time world champions Australia almost over, it would be a fight among the three sub-continental teams in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the upcoming cricket World Cup.
“I see this World Cup as a fight among the sub continental teams -- Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. England can also be the real challengers. They are doing well, especially after their success in the Ashes,” Raina said in an interview from Bangalore.
“This is a fresh World Cup and in the last four years other teams have also improved a lot as compared to the Aussies. It’s important to get a good start in the tournament,” he added.
The Uttar Pradesh player also said this was the best Indian side ever and if it could make it to the last four stage, it would be the firm favourite to win the title.
“It’s all about making it to the semis. I hope if we can make it to the last four stage, then we will definitely be in the final. We have some very good players now. It’s very important to reach the semis”.
“I think this is the best ever Indian side...we have the best batsman in Sachin Tendulkar and with Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir there as well at the top, the batting is very strong,” said Raina.
Raina said coach Gary Kirsten and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni have done a great job with the team and success has given them confidence.
“Gary Kirsten and Dhoni have been doing great with the side. He (Kirsten) is the best coach and ‘captain cool’ Dhoni is the best skipper.
“With Sreesanth back in the side, the pace attack looks very good, while in Harbhajan (Singh) leading the spin armoury along with (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Piyush) Chawla, it looks a fully balanced line-up.”
The 24-year-old batsman, who may have to compete with the likes of Virat Kohli and Yusuf Pathan for a place in the final XI, is however confident of batting at any position and sees himself in a role of a finisher.
“It’s (finishing a game) not easy. You have to read the situation well. Any miscalculation can go horribly wrong. You have to rotate the strike and at the same time it’s very important to play your natural game”, he said. “I’ve been scoring for the Indian team. I am finishing
the games well. It’s true that I am scoring in the 30s. But batting at 6 or 7, those are valuable runs when you have to play for the team’s cause,” said Raina, referring to his performance in the five-match ODI series in South Africa where he failed to notch even a half-century.
“I’ve been batting at different positions. Be it at No 3, 4, or at 5 and 6 as in last few years. I’ve improved as a batsman,” said Raina, who holds the record of becoming the first Indian to score centuries in all the three formats of the game.
A poor form had cost him a place in the 2007 World Cup squad and Raina said he was disappointed about the past but wants to start afresh.
“It was definitely disappointing to miss out on 2007. Having missed out on the last World Cup, it’s a dream come true for me to be picked this time around. It’s a hugely important tournament for me.”
“It’s a fresh World Cup and I’m truly honoured to be part of the side, representing the billions of fans who support the country. The occasion is more special as we will play in home conditions. All eyes would be on us. Everybody is upbeat. I’m really excited for the showpiece event to start,” Raina said.
“No doubt, there is pressure. After all, this is the biggest stage of the game. But we are used to this and with great cricketers like Sachin, Sehwag, Dhoni in the dressing room, you never really feel the pressure.”
Raina also believes a good performance in the World Cup would take a player to the next level.
“I see it as a very good opportunity. If you perform well, you will take your game and confidence to the next level. It’s very important to stay focussed, be relaxed and at the same time be humble and disciplined in your approach.”
Speaking about the South Africa tour, Raina said, “We lost all ODIs in 2005. But this time we showed real fighting spirit. We drew the Test series that has never happened. We fought till the end and in the ODI series also we came very close.”
Raina signed off saying everybody in the Indian team would try their best to bring back the World Cup and keep the faith of the billions of supporters.
“The World Cup belongs to the country, the billions of Indians who pray for us and support us. Nobody knows if Sachin Tendulkar will play in the next World Cup. Only he knows. Not just for Sachin but for the entire countrymen we will give our best to bring back the World Cup,” he said.