Stephen Fleming was one of the key figures behind Suresh Raina’s resurgence as a limited overs player. But the Indian left-hander’s struggle against short pitch bowling leading up to the World Cup has left the Chennai Super Kings coach a worried man.
“I don’t think Raina has a technical deficiency. If there’s any problem, it’s in his mind,” former New Zealand captain Fleming told TOI during a chat on Wednesday.
Fleming, who led the Kiwis at three World Cups between 1999 and 2007, is hoping New Zealand does well but the Indian team is never out of his mind.
“I know these guys so well. I have spoken to Raina so many times on how to counter the threat of the short ball in longer formats. He has been here in Australia for close to four weeks now and should have worked out any problem that he had by now,” Fleming said.
He feels that the problem with the Indian batting line-up has been the lack of consistency. “But for (Virat) Kohli, nobody has batted consistently well and that’s where they have suffered. The bowling, too, has been a problem and now with Ishant (Sharma) out with injury , things are going to get tough,” Fleming said.
His chemistry with skipper MS Dhoni (as CSK captain) is well documented and Fleming feels that more than anything else, it’s crucial that the Jharkhand man comes good with the bat.
“Dhoni’s batting in those last few overs has been crucial behind India’s success over the last few years. The runs haven’t flowed from his bat as usual, and that’s an area of concern. If India have to have a chance, Dhoni has to come good with the bat.”
Fleming is totally in favour of Dhoni quitting Test cricket to concentrate more on the limited overs format. “It was a good decision that he made ahead of the World Cup. Leading India is an extremely demanding job and it was important that he kept himself fresh for a tournament like this. He has always been an extra-ordinary leader and I am sure he will pull his troops up before the battle.”
How far does Fleming see India going in the tournament? “The beauty of this format is that a couple of good games in the knock-outs and you are in the final. India are the defending champions and I don’t count them out of reckoning,” he added.
The Kiwi, who is one of the ambassadors for the World Cup, believes Australia are the favourites, followed by South Africa. “Australia have played some solid cricket over the past few months. They have the players who can do the job and I won’t be surprised if they lift the cup.”