Almost 3 weeks ago- India’s most successful captain in Mahendra Singh Dhoni had announced his retirement from international cricket. It was an extremely emotional moment for not only the cricket fans in India and abroad, but also for those who took to the sport because of him – seeing a small-town boy making it big from a place where traditionally not many players have gone on and played for India. His accomplishments, records, all his great achievements for India are known to everyone.
But here at Fancy11, we try and decode the contextual reference to this development. Not to forget, Dhoni’s India and CSK teammate and a great friend throughout these years in Suresh Raina has also announced retirement. Almost owning the tag of MSD’s right-hand person, having assumed the captaincy roles when MSD wasn’t available at the helm.
In ODIs, Suresh Singh finished after 13 years – playing his last match in July 2018 in England. During this tenure, the southpaw scored 5615 runs at an average above 35, with five centuries to his name. Adding to that is his milestone of crossing the fifty run mark on as many as 36 occasions throughout his illustrious ODI career as a vital cog of the Indian middle-order.
In almost 80 T20I appearances while donning the Indian blue, Raina scored more than 1600 runs at a strike rate of almost 135. He was one of the eleven players that appeared in India’s first T20I, in South Africa in 2006. His record lists would mean that we’re in for a long reading but it won’t be justified if we don’t mention that he was also the first Indian to score a T20I hundred, again against a very potent Protea bowling attack in the 2010 T20 World Cup in the Caribbean.
The fact that Suresh Raina – one of the leading run-scorers in the history of the IPL – called it quits to top-flight cricket on the same evening as MSD made his retirement public is not the greatest of surprises. The two of them have shared a unique and long-lasting bond – that started as early as making their maiden India appearances around the same time back in the 2004-05 season. From playing for CSK and in the Indian jersey together all these years – stitching those match winning partnerships – it added all the more to the emotional quotient of the event.
The left-hand batsman from Uttar Pradesh – making receiving his India cap from Rahul Dravid as a 18 year-old back in July 2005 against Sri Lanka – made as many as 153 of his 226 ODI appearances under the able leadership of MS Dhoni. While Raina has also led India in 12 ODIs – in the IPL too, the duo of Dhoni-Raina has been an impactful one ever since the beginning of the competition.
In ODIs, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina hold the record for most runs scored for the fifth wicket overall – to this day – with a tally of more than 2400 runs that include five century stands and 13 half-century partnerships.
For all the kids born around the time when the millennium changed, playing all the Fantasy league games, looking for apps similar to Dream11 – they would be reminiscent of the memories that the dynamic duo of Dhoni and Raina have put up for the cricket fans all these years. Whenever in a pressure situation arises, we would always bank on the middle order prowess of these two to bail India out of precarious positions.
Irrespective of the conditions that the Indian side have travelled to in the last decade, more so in the period between 2010-2015, we were spoilt for relying on them for powerful finishes whenever India would bat first. Their ability to dictate terms of the match against the oppositions at their own backyard was something that Indians would take pride.
To not see them again playing for India certainly marks an end of an era. Saddening as it is, we’ve seen the two players also contributing to Indian cricket in many more ways than just their unbeatable batting skills. Handing the baton change to the younger players – Virat Kohli presented MSD with a tribute saying that his guidance and support throughout most of the players’ career in their initial stages has played an instrumental role in shaping them as full-fledged members of the Indian cricket.
Suresh Raina has been helpful to the likes of Rishabh Pant and similar players. When the flamboyant Pant smashed Gujarat Lions bowlers to all parts of the ground in 2016 and eventually missed out on his century by just three runs – the young batsman was distraught.
Raina, captain of Gujarat Lions, walked straight up to him and acknowledged the spectacle that Pant put up. Over the years, we’ve seen so many instances of top tier sportsmanship from Raina – the ultimate team man and one of the first to congratulate his team’s bowlers in an overt fashion when they pick wickets.
Keeping aside all the speculations about the impending participation of Suresh Raina in IPL 2020, when asked about the alternatives to the number three spot if he won’t be available for the season – Raina wants MSD to bat at three for CSK. Chinna Thala, as he’s lovingly called by the enthusiastic Chennai fans feels that Dhoni (Thala) still has the ability to “win a match single-handedly and can change the course of a match anytime.”
The hand-eye coordination of MSD might’ve deteriorated over the years. But post-2016 in India colours, Mahi has been able to deliver goods when he’s spent a considerable amount of time at the crease.
Even during their victorious return campaign in 2018, when Chennai Super Kings lifted the IPL trophy for the third time, Mahendra Singh Dhoni came up with important contributions for the team in various stages of the tournament, a trend that continued in the 2019 season where the franchise lost to the eventual champions – Mumbai Indians – in the final.
“It’s a very crucial position and the No. 3 position will give Dhoni more flexibility,” said Raina in a statement. The former India captain definitely has the game to acclimatize and score in the slightly different UAE conditions.
Former Kolkata Knight Riders skipper, playing significant knocks in both the World Cup triumphs under MSD – first in the 2007 T20 and then 2011, Gautam Gambhir has also suggested that MSD should bat at the first down for Chennai in the upcoming season.
Gambhir had backed up his statement that since Dhoni has not played competitive cricket after that the World Cup Semifinal loss in July 2019, he could use the batting slot upfront to settle down and then go for the kill when the business end of the innings approaches.
Given the reference of his breakthrough innings of 148 back in 2005 against Pakistan at Jaipur, Raina says batting up the order will help the skipper’s cause.
With CSK slotted to play the tournament opener of IPL 2020 against Mumbai Indians on September 19, people with cricket earning apps, looking for new fantasy cricket sites – can’t wait any longer to make their dream teams.
There was a COVID-19 scare in the CSK camp after their arrival to UAE a couple of weeks back. This has pushed back the commencement of the team’s training sessions. Chennai Super Kings squad consists of veteran players. They are not as active throughout other months of the year. This facet of provides more problems to them than other teams would face. MSD, Imran Tahir, Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo have been sure starters for one of the most successful IPL teams in recent times.
Another fact that the fans would hope works in the favour of MSD rolling back the clock and playing his vintage brand of attacking cricket is that he’s carrying no baggage or excess pressure of making an international comeback. After keeping people in the dark on his future, his retirement news should allow him to enjoy the remaining time he has, as a player.
Without the prospect of a possible India return, he will only be concerned with things that has immediate repercussions. Not that MSD has been the man to look too far into the future – one of his greatest strengths across his decorated career has been his uncanny ability to remain focused, calm and cool under the most trying of conditions and match situations.
The same will go for Suresh Raina – provided if he plays. The left handed batsman has been one of the most attacking players that the history of IPL has seen. He has set up the tone for big scores when the side’s batted first and cleared the inner circles with ease on multiple occasions to give his side the edge within the powerplay while chasing mammoth totals.
Raina will turn 34 in two months’ time. His retirement has come at a relatively early age than most Indian players have done. There have been recent discussions about Indian players not getting an NOC from BCCI to participate in foreign T20 leagues. The likes of Irfan Pathan, Robin Uthappa and Piyush Chawla, among others have spent most of their careers trying to fight for a spot in the Indian squad after making promising starts in early phases of their playing days.
During the various informal interviews conducted by players during the lockdown, they pointed out that the BCCI should start allowing players without central contracts, giving them the required clearance to go and play in other T20 leagues.
Maybe allowing Dhoni and Raina for starters will light up a way forward for the second string Indian T20 players who have been experienced IPL players without much access to other forms of cricket during other times of the year.
MSD doing the rounds in various T20 leagues, declaring himself available for tournaments like Big Bash and CPL would set franchises ablaze. Team owners and managements over there would literally do everything in their capacity to ensure MSD plays a season or two with them, even at this stage of his career.
For Suresh Raina, who should look forward to atleast 4-5 more years with Chennai Super Kings – the situation shouldn’t be much different. If the BCCI gives a green light for Indian participation – this will start a revolution of starts within the T20 format in this country of India where cricket is followed fanatically.
West Indies star players over all these years in Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, DJ Bravo and more recent ones in Sunil Narine and Andre Russell have all developed themselves to be T20 specialists. Their valuations are increased manifold when it comes to the shortest format of the game.
If things go as well, India’s next crop of players will have variety in being the best of all conditions – because of their regular seasons in various places around the world – just like the Caribbean men have done in the past decade.
All of this will be for another day as the focus now is on the return of Indian players to high profile cricket and the aspect of Dhoni and Raina playing together after announcing retirements will be the added flavour of this edition.
There is no shortage of social media posts pointing out to the massive fan following of Chennai Super Kings – their captain, Thala – MSD will be seen with his smile at tosses and post match presentations – something that the supporters have long yearned for.