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It's going to be interesting and emotional to play against Dhoni: Suresh Raina

Gujarat Lions
Skipper Suresh Raina and team owner Keshav Bansal at the launch of the Gujarat Lions team jersey. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Suresh Raina, the Gujarat Lions skipper, has been the most successful batsman in Indian Premier League (IPL) history. His record of 3699 runs in 132 games is not ordinary by any means. The southpaw, who played for Chennai Super Kings’ since the inception of IPL, has been the batting mainstay for them since the last eight editions. However, with CSK being suspended for two years, Raina will be now seen in the Gujarat Lions jersey. In a recent interview with Times of India, Raina, who was at the GP Petroleum’s event, spoke about moving to a new team, the influence of MS Dhoni and more.

Gujarat Lions are already touted as the favorites. During a recent event, Gujarat Lions owner had stated they would like to create an impression by winning the title in the debut season itself. Raina also seems to agree with the fact, stating that the team looks like a strong side and has some great T20 players.

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“I guess it’s the Chennai Super Kings effect (smiles). Raina said with a hint of sarcasm.”

Structure wise, the Gujarat team is very similar to the CSK outfit as the core of the Chennai franchise barring MS Dhoni has assembled in Gujarat.

“There are so many from CSK here. All of us are just about beginning to get together. Some have already reached Rajkot, the rest are on their way. Brendon McCullum, James Faulkner, Dwayne Bravo, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith add to the batting might. In fact, in Faulkner, we have such a good all-rounder. There’s Ravindra Jadeja who is around too…” He said

Every season we see one uncanny commodity in the IPL. Bowlers like Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav and most recently KC Cariappa in the last season have all being surprise element who hogged the limelight. This season, too, there is one such unorthodox bowler – Shivil Kaushik. There not much known about him and there’s quite a lot of buzz about it.

When asked about this bowler who has been creating a lot of buzz, Raina said, “Yes we are going to have our share of surprises too. Shivil Kaushik certainly seems to be a find. He bowls Chinaman, like South Africa’s Paul Adams and he’s so young – just 20 years old.”

For a player, who has spent eight years with a same franchise, it would have not being very easy to shift to another franchise. Raina also agreed with the fact and said that it felt like “leaving one family and going to another.”

“No matter how much love you get in this new family, how can you let go of all the love you received over the last eight years from the Chennai family. The city had become a second home to all of us. Ek ghar mein aath saal rahe ho, ab bola, jaa kiss doosre ghar mein do saal raho (we lived in one house for eight years and now we’re told to live in another house for two years). It’s not easy.”

Raina’s love for CSK and Chennai fans was clearly noticeable as he went on to say that there was a feeling of loyalty whenever they wore the team jersey. But, he asserted that being a professional cricketer, he has to adapt and move on.

“It’s not like players wouldn’t like to play for say Gujarat or Mumbai but I wish there was a choice and we could decide. For example, UP ke liye khel rahe hain, ab UP ki team nahi hain to chalo Delhi ke liye khelte hain. Ek connect ra hega. (We’re playing for UP , then one day there’s no UP team so we look at Delhi let’s say, so that there’s a certain connect) There was no choice that was available”

“Yes, now it’s like moving into a different world – coming from north, finding home in the south and now having to move to the west. New team, new team owners, new coaches, new home ground – so yes, lot of challenges to look forward to. We were superstars in Chennai and to understand what I’m saying, one had to be there to see it. We were treated like gods,” Raina said.

Ironically, time will soon bring former teammates against each other when CSK players will be pitted against CSK players when Rajkot and Pune clash. But, Raina says that it would very interesting to be in such odd condition.

“We’ve all been through tough situation, won handsomely, felt disappointed after losses and built a great connect. We all understand each other well – strengths, weaknesses etc. So, it’s going to be interesting and emotional,”

More interestingly it will be a former deputy versus his captain with Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni being leaders of the two teams.

“Oh yes, we’re already started being diplomatic with each other while discussing IPL. I’ve been looking at ways to ask him about his team’s preparations, he’s been doing the same. At dinner tables, at the nets, during practice, both of us are asking each other a lot of things but not revealing anything to each other (laughs).”

Also Read – Interview Stephan Myburgh: ‘It’s amazing to play cricket in India and I really hope I can be there again in the near future’

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