Inspired by Raina, UP looks to march on

Raina, who joined the Uttar Pradesh squad after two losses, led the team to two thrilling wins against Bengal and Himachal Pradesh and help UP stay in contention for a quarterfinal berth.

Suresh Raina's presence helped UP two back-to-back matches and stay in contention.

Suresh Raina may have taken the flight to South Africa to join the Indian side for the upcoming T20I series, but he has left behind inspirational examples for his younger Uttar Pradesh colleagues to raise their game for the remaining two Group B matches of the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day tournament.

Raina, who joined the Uttar Pradesh squad after two losses, led the team to two thrilling wins against Bengal and Himachal Pradesh and help UP stay in contention for a quarterfinal berth.

Former India player and Uttar Pradesh coach Sujith Somasundar acknowledged Raina's impact on the young players.

“Raina is an inspiration, a complete team man. Whether he is batting, bowling or fielding, he gives everything for the team. He brings in a lot of positivity...Unfortunately, he has not spent too much time. For that kind of understanding to happen (in others), it requires some amount of time.

“He comes with so many years of experience at the highest level. He understands what would be the best game plan. Through his experience he has been able to turn around some of the games. In the last match, we were defending a low score and through his intelligence he could manoeuvre his resources,” said Somasundar.

Somasundar, who took up the coaching job before the Mushtaq Ali Trophy, would love his players to pick up some match-winning traits from Raina and implement those in their next two matches, against Kerala here on Thursday and against Tripura at Amtar on Saturday.

“For a team that had a bad Ranji Trophy campaign, coming out of that is difficult. The only thing we the coaches can do is to bring the self-confidence and belief back in them...At this level they are already competent individually. They are all independent, but they need to be inter-dependent,” said Somasundar, also a mental conditioning coach.

For its crucial test against Uttar Pradesh, which has eight points from four matches, Kerala needs to be more competitive after witnessing three of its four matches going down to the wire.

With a pack of promising pacers, including Nidheesh M.D., Fanoos F. And Abhishek Mohan, and a bunch of talented batsmen, such as Sanju Samson, Sachin Baby, Jalaj Saxena and Mohammed Azharuddeen, in the squad, Kerala – which has 10 points from four outings – has stopped Delhi's winning momentum and is capable of seeing off Uttar Pradesh.

Thursday's Group B matches:
At Dharamsala: Kerala vs Uttar Pradesh
At Amtar: Delhi vs Himachal Pradesh
At Bilaspur: Maharashtra vs Tripura