Playing Aus brings back happy memories of 2011 quarter final: Suresh Raina

Rohit Sharma & Co are ready to deal with the weight of expectations at the ICC World Cup, writes former winning team member Raina

Raina is confident India can win ICC World Cup at home, highlights strong bowling and batting line-up (photo: National Herald archives)
Raina is confident India can win ICC World Cup at home, highlights strong bowling and batting line-up (photo: National Herald archives)

Suresh Raina

I am writing this from Delhi and the whole country is excited ahead of India’s first game against Australia today. 

When India are playing at home, we know how much expectation there is, but the team must try and play the situation.

We won the World Cup here in 2011, Australia won in Australia in 2015 and England won on home soil four years ago. There is a very good opportunity here for India to win the World Cup in front of their own fans and I am confident they can do it. 

I have that confidence for several reasons.

We have a very good bowling line-up that knows how to bowl in these conditions. Ravi Ashwin, who was part of our winning squad in 2011, is still in the squad and adds that experience, and having Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj firing again after their injuries is massive.

Our pace attackers complement each other well. Bumrah, in particular, is looking sorted now. He has recovered well and he is a very important player in this World Cup. 

With the bat, Virat Kohli will anchor the show and look to bat through the overs. We also have a very solid opening pair. Shubman Gill averages over 60 in ODI cricket and Rohit Sharma has scored three double centuries in this format — and hit five centuries at the last World Cup. If the top three can bat 25–30 overs, we can easily put a lot of runs on the board. 

Winning the Asia Cup will give the team confidence but the World Cup will bring a different pressure.

The whole of India wants India to win this trophy. It is different to 2011, too. Back then, there was nowhere near as much social media. Nowadays, every player is on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook — every player will feel that pressure. 

But as professional athletes, they have to ignore that and just enjoy the World Cup, enjoy playing in front of these fans and thrive on the support. Diwali is coming and there will be lots of celebrations, so they just need to enjoy each and every game. One mistake can leave you out of a World Cup, especially when you get to the latter stages. They need to be very focused, very mentally strong and enjoy this format.

Sunday’s match in Chennai will be a great game. Australia are five-time champions and are a very strong all-round team. Most of their players have played in the IPL so they know the wickets and the Indian players. 

On a personal level, any World Cup match between India and Australia brings back memories of the quarter-final in 2011, a game full of pressure. Australia were the holders and the favourites to win it again. 

We were chasing 261 and when [MS] Dhoni was out, I joined Yuvraj Singh at 187 for five. We had to dig in, we had to take responsibility and play the ball, not the occasion, and that’s what me and Yuvi did. In a quarter-final against the reigning champions, you need to bring your A-game and we delivered. 

I remember the stadium being full of fans shouting and screaming and before I went in to bat, I was sitting with Sachin [Tendulkar]. He told me to go out there, take the chase deep, stay calm and breathe. He told me I could do it and I had already played 100 ODIs by that time, so I knew how to play those crucial knocks. I was very calm and composed and I thought ‘let’s do it for India’. 

Hopefully, this weekend will bring a similar result but I do think Australia will also compete for the trophy. I see them, New Zealand, England and India as the main challengers — but don’t overlook Afghanistan. 

This weekend, however, my focus will be on India. I cannot wait to see how this squad take to the challenge and I am expecting a classic between two world-class teams. 

Suresh Raina is a member of the 2011 World Cup winning squad under MS Dhoni. Courtesy: International Cricket Council 

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines