Suresh Raina was born three years after India’s World Cup win at Lord’s in 1983. He grew up listening to stories of that epic triumph and nurtured a dream of holding the Cup someday as he took his early steps in cricket. He suffered hardships, staying away from home, in chasing his goals. The Kanpur Sports Hostel stay steeled him and contributed to making Raina a committed player.
The win at the Wankhede Stadium was the culmination of the hard work he put in to make it to the India team. That the Cup was won in the company of Sachin Tendulkar was a special moment for the entire team. Raina spoke to Sportstar to take us through the chase under floodlights.
How did you prepare for the final before going to the ground?
I think everyone got together. We used to have one strong guy from South Africa – Mike Horn. He used to give us a lot of motivational talk towards how to prepare yourself, how to be positive, how to sleep. He really put us in a positive frame of mind to give us that extra space to play big finals. And Sachin also, helped as a mentor to all the players. He told us ‘Tomorrow's a big final we all need to get together, think positive because we have beaten Australia in the quarterfinals. We have beaten Pakistan in the semifinals. This is one more game and we really, really need to go out there and just express ourselves. Don't think about winning and losing. Just go out there enjoy the hundred overs. That's what I felt in that evening when we had meeting with Gary (Kirsten). The persons very positive in the meeting was Gary and Sachin.
What about MS Dhoni?
MS always believed on the ground. He always did each and everything really, really well. I still remember when we had the toss, I think some confusion was there. (Kumar) Sangakkara said tail or head, then the match referee said ‘Let’s do it again’. Some panic button was on in the dressing room and Sachin came up to all of us and said don't worry about the toss. It's not in our hands, if they score 300 plus it will be easy. We're gonna chase the total. So the only worrying factor was the dew.
How important was India’s batting unit?
Our batting was really crucial with our openers. The turning point was Gautam Gambhir and his rotation of the strike with Virat (Kohli). That set up the tone for us. Both the players knew we have left-right combination. Yuvraj was coming. Suresh was coming. MS was there. The only worry about MS was that he had not been performing in the whole World Cup and I knew down the line he will definitely deliver in the final. He said to Gary `Look, I have played so many practice sessions with (Muttiah) Muralitharan and he really, really knows me as a person and he will definitely press the panic button. I think that was the masterstroke from MS Dhoni before Virat got out. Gautam and Dhoni had a brilliant partnership before Yuvraj, who was in the form of his life.
India was chasing 275 to win. So what was discussed in the dressing room before Sehwag and Tendulkar walked out to bat?
We didn’t decide anything. The calmness was there, the seriousness was there when we finished fielding. We came back, we all took a shower. Then suddenly umpires were walking in and Viru paaji played one nice shot against (Lasith) Malinga but then he got out. Sachin paaji played two beautiful on-drives [*one on-drive and one cut shot] to Kulasekara and then he also got out. Then Gautam went and when he crossed the boundary I saw his face and I thought something big was going to come today. Because he is a fighter. Because I have seen him batting a lot of times in Test series and One Day series and Ranji Trophy also. When he went in maybe I was talking to Sreesanth or Piyush. I said he is going to make a big difference today. And then he started playing (Thisara) Perera to midwicket and I think square cut (Nuwan) Kulasekara. The game was on. And then Virat went in and was batting really, really well taking a lot of singles. When Dhoni walked in I thought this is really, really the changing moment for us. Dhoni started hitting Muralitharan. That was the masterstroke.
What was the main strength of India’s chase that day?
I think it was a good chase because of the left-right combination. When Virat and Gautam there they didn’t know where to bowl because the dew was there. Virat and Gautam also played spin very well, taking a lot of singles. Eventually, Perera came and Kulasekara was also bowling. Then Malinga came for two overs because they wanted a breakthrough because both the batsmen did really well under the pressure conditions and in 30-32 overs they soaked up the pressure really, really well making things easier for us.
IN PICTURES: India's 2011 World Cup triumph
You were padded up with Dhoni and Yuvraj in the middle. So what was going on in your mind?
When Gautam and Virat were batting, Yuvi was padded up and then suddenly Virat got out. Viru bhai, I think, told Gary that we should continue with the same batting combination. Then MS went in and then Gautam got out. Then Yuvi paa got in. So I think the left-right combination gave us a lot of head-up against Sri Lanka. Because Sri Lanka is the only team which knows how to play the final in ICC trophies. So that was the problem we had that they know how to play big matches. When we are playing at home we know each and every conditions. That was the good thing that happened. Gautam was playing like a champion. He was playing singles, doubles, defending and hitting the ball really well. Every ball he was middling. Lot of confidence in the dressing room.
When Gambhir got out at 223 India was still some distance away. Was there any sense of anxiety?
No, because it was only 60-65 runs. Because that was the plan. So they batted till long and we wanted to keep wickets in hand. And then, MS went in and MS was already there. Yuvi paa was in full form. I knew 60 runs will not make any difference but we really needed to be positive and not think about 60 runs or 50 runs. We were just going to go out there, take the responsibility and make partnerships and not make any mistakes. Positiveness gave us the World Cup, not which team we are playing, what player we are playing. That Vande Mataram song which came in between our partnerships made me believe that this is our World Cup now. When 20-25 runs were left, Yuvi paa was hitting and then Dhoni was hitting boundaries and we thought we are going to win this from here now.
Zaheer Khan talked of too may expectations and too much pressure of winning the World Cup because from the beginning of the tournament it was said that India will win. When India won the Cup what were your thoughts, your immediate thoughts?
Zaheer bhai was Sachin Tendulkar for us in the bowling department. Each and every time the other team had a partnership he got us a breakthrough, be it Ricky Ponting or anyone else. He was coming and giving us a breakthrough. I think that set up the tone. You will see whenever we batted we chased below 300 because that was the key. In 2011, we were scoring 330, 340. When we chased, I think Zaheer, Ashish (Nehra) and then Munaf (Patel) also bowled well. Zaheer was the captain of the bowling department. Dhoni or Sachin no one told him anything. He was setting up the field for every bowler and he was giving him lots of boost just to plan whatever it is and asking them to bowl according to the field. I think that made us believe that we are a good bowling lineup and we have a gun batting lineup to just go out there and win a World Cup.
If you can just tell us about your match-winning innings against Australia in the quarterfinal?
Viru bhai told me that I think you will be getting a chance and you will be finishing it. I think Sachin was also telling me that Suresh this is your game. And I was already pumped up. I thought I am gonna go there and whatever experience I have, I will go out there and finish this match. Yuvi paa was already there and I told Yuvi paa , “Yuvi paa just keep hanging there.” I hit a six off Brett Lee and Yuvi paa said `don’t play like this Suresh.’ I walked up to Yuvi paa and said the ball looks so big. Just let me play. I will not do any mistake. He saw my positive intent and said, Suresh, let’s go. Let’s finish it. Then I felt special and we finished in 2-3 overs.
Finally what do you have to say about your celebration after the World Cup?
I think I was on the phone with my mom and dad, with my family. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. I came to my room at 4 o’ clock. Then we went to an awards function. The night was very beautiful. I remember each and every hour. I was so happy. The whole nation was so, so happy. I feel lot of blessings were there for us throughout the tournament. Everyone was praying for us. Some god power took us to the winning position.
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