A left-handed dynamo, Raina played a pivotal role in India’s limited-overs success, contributing significantly to the team’s triumph in the 2011 ICC ODI World Cup.Raina also became the first Indian to score centuries in all three formats of the game.
In the Indian Premier League (IPL), Raina was a stalwart for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), contributing immensely to their success. He played a crucial role in CSK’s multiple IPL title victories and emerged as the tournament’s highest run-scorer in several seasons.
Apart from his on-field exploits, what impressed most about Raina is his selflessness and always putting team first ahead of himself. These qualities are appreciated by Dwayne Smith, a West Indian cricketing icon and former Chennai Super Kings teammate of Raina.
Urbanrisers Hyderabad’s Dwayne Smith during the Legends League Cricket 2023. (ANI Photo)
In an exclusive chat with TimesofIndia.com, Smith, who played for Urbanrisers Hyderabad under the leadership of Raina in the 2023 Legends League Cricket (LLC) T20, asserted, “I know I’ve said it many times already about Suresh Raina, but he’s the best cricketer I’ve ever met on and off the field. He just thinks about the team first, then himself and that selflessness of him is so perfect.
“I’ve watched him from the years I’ve played with him, even playing against him, and you see how he moves about, and it’s so good to see that he’s always trying to help someone. He helped a lot of people, I think recently you heard Rinku Singh talk about him, so it’s good to see and I hope that he will continue, I know that he will continue (to help).”
‘Being an opening batsman is like driving a car’
Opening an inning with the bat is a craft in itself. And it takes a lot to master the art of facing the new deliveries swinging in all directions. Elaborating on the challenges that opening batsmen face in the shorter format of the game, Smith said, “It’s a lot (difficult) because you’re the one that has to start the engine, get the car moving and continue to carry it through the journey or sometimes put it in a position where it can continue the journey. But it’s very challenging. I have always liked it from the very moment I got that opportunity to open the batting.”
West Indies cricketers (AP Photo)
Reasons behind West Indies‘ dip in ODIs
Shockwaves were felt across the cricketing world when West Indies, the two-time world champions, couldn’t qualify for the 2023 edition of the ODI World Cup in India.
Diving deep into the root cause of this catastrophic collapse, Smith dissected, “Since Covid, they haven’t had much cricket, they’ve played about 10 games and this is what, three, four years now since Covid. So you see the difference. We don’t play enough cricket. Everything is shortened, the four-day season is shortened, the 50-over is rushed down and you don’t have enough time to see a player develop or actually have enough games over a longer period of time to say this guy could be good.”
“Right now, we are at the stage where you’re just picking people because they performed (in the past). They pick some because they think of the talent they have. But I think that our administration has a lot to do with our performances in cricket, and they need to put more cricket games in place for us to actually go out there and perform against these guys from around the world,” added the 40-year-old West Indian.
‘West Indies are far behind’
Visibly disappointed by the overall downfall of West Indies cricket, Smith asked the board and its players to play a collective role in ensuring the resurrection of their cricket. He underlined, “Look at the Netherlands, Afghanistan, and Scotland. Those guys played against us and beat us. You don’t want that. I’ve been part of the West Indies team so I know what goes on. You can’t compete with the likes of Virat Kohli and Steve Smith in tournaments when you don’t have enough preparation. I’m not going to knock down the board or the administration all the time. I mean some of the players need to get their act together too. They need to find ways to sort themselves out. But our administration needs a lot of work. It needs a lot of work. I’m very serious. We are way behind when it comes to world cricket.”
Expressing his love for the West Indies cricket, he admitted, “I don’t want to sugarcoat things. I love West Indies cricket. I’m not going to stop loving West Indies cricket. But we need to do something with our team because we’re not marketing our team properly, and we’re not giving them enough opportunities to say that they can compete in the world.”
Jason Holder, right, with Andre Russell (AP Photo)
Expectations from T20 World Cup
West Indies will co-host the upcoming T20 World Cup with the USA in 2024, with 20 teams in total competing for the coveted trophy over the month of June.
Hoping for a positive reaction from the West Indies team in the cricketing extravaganza, Smith opined, “We’re playing at home, and it’s conditions that we are accustomed to. I really think if the guys are up for it, they can put in good performances. We’ve performed in T20s before and we have a lot of guys that play T20 cricket, so hopefully the majority of them can get into the World Cup squad and put in some good performances for the team to show a good face in the World Cup.”
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