Raina: India has the edge

The swashbuckling batsman, who is now in Holland, has made it a point to watch India’s games at the Champions Trophy.

A lot would depend on Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah in the final, says Raina.   -  K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

It’s been a year and a half since Suresh Raina played his last ODI, donning the India colours. But that doesn’t mean he is away from cricket. The swashbuckling batsman, who is now in Holland, has made it a point to watch India’s games at the Champions Trophy. And as his old friends gear up for the final fling against Pakistan, Raina feels that the Virat Kohli-led side has played like a champion in the tournament.

On Saturday afternoon, Raina spoke exclusively to Sportstar from Holland on Sunday’s mega clash.

The excerpts…

After a decade, India will again lock horns with Pakistan in the final of an ICC event. What are your thoughts about Sunday’s game?

Look, we played like a champion. Throughout the tournament, we have done well in all the three departments — batting, bowling and fielding. So, that should definitely give us more confidence in the final.

When India went into the tournament, there was scepticism about its chances. How would you rate the side’s campaign?

The major reason behind the good campaign has been the success of the opening partnership. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have bolstered the confidence by getting off to good starts. Then, they are solidly supported by Virat (Kohli) at number three. This shows how capable we are as an unit, and we are ranked as the top side. But then, I am sure, ahead of the final, all my friends are hungry for more success.

Some of India’s top batsmen came into the tournament struggling for form. Who would you give credit to for helping the out of favour batsmen striking form?

The credit should also be given to Sanjay Bangar and Raghu (Raghavindra, the team’s throw-down specialist from the NCA) for constantly supporting the team. Even in the press conference the other day, Virat admitted that they have helped him return to form.

Sanjay has always been instrumental in helping the players regain the confidence. I remember, before our game against Pakistan in 2015, we were worried about how to face Mohammad Irfan. In the training session, Sanjay would throw balls at us from a wet bucket. That practice boosted our confidence and we could defeat Pakistan. So, there is a lot of planning that goes through before a big match. In this tournament, India has had great planning and the result has been outstanding, too.

From no-hoper to finalist, how do you see Pakistan’s performance this time?

Pakistan has also played brilliantly. They have pulled off quite a few surprises in the tournament, which not many expected from them. Their bowlers Hasan Ali and spinner Imad Wasim have been really good. So, yes, it will not be an easy contest. And, I think, the toss will play a crucial role in tomorrow’s game.

The good thing is that Pakistan doesn’t have any idea about the Oval surface, since it hasn’t played a game there. Whereas, India has played a couple of games there and the players know how exactly the things would be.

So, are you saying that Pakistan players will be in a doubt about the conditions in The Oval?

Pakistan will definitely be a bit confused and will be under pressure. That’s where India has the edge and we need to make it count.

Our bowlers — Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have had a very good tournament so far. And in the final also, a lot would depend on them.

So, with the strike bowlers looking good, all India needs to do is watch Pakistan’s activities closely and then lure them to make a mistake. In a high-pressure match, this is how things work. You keep a tab on the opponent and then react accordingly!

Who do you think has the edge?

India-Pakistan is the biggest game for a cricketer. This being the final of the Champions Trophy, the excitement would be higher and like the fans, even the players would be hoping for an interesting match. But for me, India has the edge.