Raina: Leading IPL team a different ball-game

Suresh Raina looks forward to captaining the Gujarat Lions, and understands the value of having a brand of your own, in a short chat with Sportstar.

Suresh Raina at the unveiling of Gujarat Lions' team logo.   -  PTI

What’s common between Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan? Well, each of these superstars has, at some point of time or the other, been the ‘face’ of his respective Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise.

The one name missing is that of Suresh Raina. Forever lost in the shadow of you know who, the left-hander finally has a team he can call his own. When the Gujarat Lions, owned by Intex Technologies, announced that Raina would lead the team in the ninth edition of the tournament, it only stated the obvious. There was no way the Keshav Bansal-led multi-million-dollar company would have overlooked Raina for a videshi superstar.

When Sportstar caught up with Raina during Uttar Pradesh’s victorious Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy campaign in Mumbai last month, the 28-year-old said he was looking forward to the opportunity of leading an IPL team.

“Gujarat never had an IPL team. It has three Ranji teams but no IPL team. I am glad the State finally has one. Leading an IPL team is a different ball-game. I want to give everyone a chance. There are so many players in Gujarat. There are some very exciting and talented players in the State,” he had said.

Playing without Dhoni will be different

Since 2008, Raina’s summers have been spent in the company of Dhoni in the canary yellow clothing of Chennai Super Kings. “Yes, we won’t be playing together for the next two years. It’s a different situation, but an exciting one. He will have to find a guy to bat at No. 3 at the Pune franchise. Similarly, I will have my own set of challenges to deal with at Rajkot,” Raina said.

For the record, Raina didn’t miss a single game for CSK. In all, he amassed 3,699 runs in 132 games (128 innings). Not surprisingly, he is the highest run-getter in the tournament’s history, with Rohit Sharma (3,385) and Chris Gayle (3,199) right behind.

Hitherto unknown to take business and commerce too seriously, Raina has warmed up to the idea of building his own brand. “I never thought of it like this. For me, cricket was about the team. But I have come to realise that it’s important to have a brand of your own. Whatever I did for CSK, I want to do it for Rajkot. And I have Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner to help me,” he added.

The Gujarat Lions will be coached by Brad Hodge.

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