Throughout his career, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has shown great ability to be flexible with his own batting position. He has always adapted to the need of the hour and batted according to the situation.
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Now, he is expecting the same with Suresh Raina.
In Sunday’s crunch opening match against Pakistan, Raina got promoted to No.4 as soon as India lost Shikhar Dhawan in the 30th over. The score then was 163.
Instead of Ajinkya Rahane, who would have walked out in normal course, Raina took centrestage. The move paid rich dividend for Dhoni as the left-hander scored an aggressive 74 in just 56 balls, smashing three sixes and eight fours.
Dhoni was full of praise for the way Raina, his team-mate also in the Chennai Super Kings team, rose to the challenge.
“I think the role that’s assigned to him, he did it perfectly well,” said Dhoni following India’s 76-run victory over their traditional rivals at Adelaide Oval.
“He was provided with a platform where he could go in and be a bit more expressive. What we really liked was he took a few deliveries initially and then went on to play the big shots.
"In fact, he was more calculated in his innings, and he picked his areas where he wanted to hit. He read the bowlers well as to where they wanted to bowl.
“If you can put pressure on the bowlers, you will push them to commit more mistakes, so overall, I think his innings was special.”
When asked what was his thinking in sending Raina ahead of Rahane, Dhoni said he was looking at Raina to be one of the ‘floaters’ in the Indian ODI team, who could bat at any position according to the demands of the situation.
“I have always felt that more than your batting position, what is more important is what over is being bowled, what is the situation of the match and who is bowling,” said Dhoni.
“Most of the players generally develop their games as per some general pattern. If you look at Raina, he has been excellent when coming around the 30th to 34th over. That is a bracket where I think he is most useful as a batsman.
“It is important that he plays a few balls before the Powerplay and have a look at things like the bounce in the pitch. He can then accelerate, as well as try and stay till the end. If he bats for long, it means those many runs for India. He is impossible to stop.
“We’d really like only the first three batting positions to be fixed. After that, we want the team to be full of floaters, who can be sent in according to the situation of the match.
“If we had sent out Rahane instead of Raina, he would have been under some pressure to score runs at a faster clip, whereas he would have been perfect if say we had lost the second wicket soon around the 15th over.”
The Indian team have now reached Melbourne, where they play their second match against South Africa on Sunday.
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