UAE weather will make things more challenging in IPL: Suresh Raina

CHENNAI: Suresh Raina has been one of the key figures in Chennai Super Kings (CSK)’s consistent success in IPL over the years. No wonder he hit the nets immediately after the BCCI announced a revised IPL schedule this season.
In an interview with TOI, Raina, who was named the brand ambassador of WTF Sports along with Harmanpreet Kaur, spoke about the need to keep a clear mind ahead of the IPL, his India aspirations, what makes CSK tick and MS Dhoni‘s international comeback.
Excerpts:
How are you shaping up for the IPL after the Covid-enforced break? How difficult will it be to play such a demanding tournament after this big a break?
We have been sitting at home for the last five months and it will be interesting to see how we fare on the field with all the tests and ICC protocols to be followed. Fitness will be the key along with mental clarity. But we are lucky that we are getting a chance to play again and are going to the UAE early. I believe we should be in a good frame of mind.
Personally, I have had a knee surgery last year and haven’t played competitive cricket since 2019 IPL. But I am in a good space. I need to go out there and play my natural game.
How do you rate CSK’s chances in this IPL?
Over the years, CSK followed a simple philosophy: work hard and get rewarded. When we returned to IPL in 2018, everyone was talking about CSK being ‘dad’s army’. We accepted that and went on to win the IPL. Now everyone has kids and family. So it’s not just ours’ but everyone (team) is a dad’s army now.
The CSK management and Dhoni ensure that the players and their families are looked after really well. That keeps us in a positive frame of mind. It has been our biggest strength as a team. Hopefully, we will be able to replicate the success this year also.
Do you feel the slow wickets in UAE will help CSK considering you play in similar conditions in Chennai?
It definitely will. But UAE weather would be a challenge. We will have to see how the wicket holds in the hot conditions. But the best thing is you won’t have logistical problems. It is 45 minutes from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and 40 minutes from Dubai to Sharjah. In a way, we will have more rest and more time to plan.
With the T20 World Cup being postponed by a year, are you still looking forward to playing it?
Playing in T20 World Cup is definitely in my book. You may call this a blessing in disguise as I will be now getting two IPLs to prove that I can still make a difference. But I am not thinking about it now.
Dhoni has turned 39. Do you still see an international future for him?
Age does matter but with Dhoni it’s different. He is a natural athlete and I know what his power is. You can’t hit a six when the ball is coming at 140-150 kmph without such fitness. He has that tough approach to his game and does everything with passion and supreme planning. He will always be our driving force.
Will you be missing the fans in the IPL?
Chennai fans are the best and will definitely miss them in the stands. But I know they will be supporting us from their homes. We know that this year we will have a responsibility to give them a good IPL experience even though they won’t be there with us in the stadiums.

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