Among many India vs Pakistan matches in ODI World Cups – 7 to be exact – people won’t blame you if you failed to recall much about the contest between the two sides in the 2015 World Cup apart from a masterful hundred by Virat Kohli. India won that group stage match comfortably by 76 runs and there was hardly any contest worth remembering. But there was a superb innings from Suresh Raina, which somehow went unnoticed due to Kohli’s 107. Recalling that innings after five years, Raina said half the credit for that knock goes to then captain MS Dhoni as he had decided to promote him to bat at No.4 for that match.
Ajinkya Rahane was India’s designated No.4 in the World Cup, while Raina was largely batting at No.5. But not in the match against Pakistan. Raina revealed that it was Dhoni who suddenly walked up to him when Kohli and Dhawan were batting without any discomfort in the middle and asked him to pad-up.
“I never questioned his decisions. I remember I was having a sandwich or something during our match against Pakistan in World Cup 2015. Suddenly after 20 overs, he said ‘pad-up’. I padded up. Virat was batting really well and this happened just a few overs before Shikhar (Dhawan) got run out. So I got out in the middle, played a few shots and scored 70-80 runs,” said Raina in a YouTube interview.
Raina walked out to bat at No.4 when India were 162 for 3 in 29.5 overs. The left-hander smashed a 56-ball 74 with five fours and three sixes, stitching an important 110-run stand with Kohli.
Raina also revealed the plan behind Dhoni’s sudden change of thought. “After the match I asked him why did you sent me up the order? He said, ‘I thought you will play better against the leg-spinner who was bowling at that time’. He also praised me for my batting. So I also want to know what goes on in his mind,” Raina added.
Dhoni’s strategy did wonders as Pakistan’s premier leg-spinner Yasir Shah went wicketless in that match. Raina was particularly severe against Yasir. He finished with figures of none for 60 in his 8 overs.
The other spinner who was taking the ball away from the right-hander was part-timer Haris Sohail. He too was taken for 26 runs off his 4 overs.
India, however, failed to put on a massive score as Pakistan’s Sohail Khan returned to pick up 5 wickets. But still, India’s total of 300 was good enough as Pakistan were bowled out for 227 in 47 overs.
Praising Dhoni further Raina said Dhoni always used to stay a step ahead of the game. “He was always a step ahead. He used to stand behind the stumps for the entire match, assess the pitch, whether it has turn and swing… He was seldom wrong, I can say he was god gifted. Later when I became the captain of Gujarat Lions in IPL, he told me ‘you can come up to me anytime for suggestions,” said Raina.
Both Raina and Dhoni would have been plying their trade for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL now had the tournament not been postponed indefinitely due to Covid-19.