Gujarat Lions’ Suresh Raina is having a terrific first season as a captain. The win against Delhi Daredevils last night saw his team register their  fifth win in six matches. The soon to be a father also became the first Indian cricketer to score 6000 runs in T20 format. In an interview with TOI, he shared his experience about leading the team, his perssonal life and much more.
Your team Gujarat Lions has been performing really well. How would you assess your performance as captain?

I have got this responsibility. I have to perform for my players. I have played with most of my players at Chennai Super Kings. We have 5-6 players who have performed well in IPL. Brad Hodge, Dwayne Bravo… these players are aware of my nature.They have played so much in India. It helps to have a set combination if the players respond to the captain. I have never missed even an optional practice session so I can give my players more time.

How does your captaincy differ from that of MS Dhoni, who was your leader at CSK for eight years…

You need to ask the players about this. How would I know? (Laughs) I can see what’s important for the game. First you need to think about the team and be selfless. For whichever team I have played so far, I told myself that I am the captain on the field.That approach helped me.

Do you also think that Test cricket is still the real deal…

Test cricket is obviously important. We have our first-class and Test season later on in the year. To do well there, I will also be trying for a county stint after my wife’s delivery. Cricket is also about entertainment but I have always believed in Test cricket. What matters is performing well in the format you are playing. Doing well in IPL is my current focus.

For those dreaming of becoming cricketers, is T20s the No.1 priority?

This depends on the person’s perception. I can’t ask my friend or son or anyone’s son to play a particular format. If you want to eat at a particular restaurant then you will eat over there only. I can’t say don’t eat here or there. It depends on a person’s choice. When you are living in a democratic country, you can do whatever you want to do as long as it makes you happy. What people say or think does not bother me. That is a waste of time.

Any particular youngster who has caught your eye?

Shreyas Iyer is one. Jasprit Bumrah was always Team India material. Krunal Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav are a few others. IPL helps a lot. It teaches a lot…way of living, a way of training, how to look after your body, what to eat, when to sleep. It even teaches man-management skills. You can even learn that from people like Shahrukh Khan, Preity Zinta…how they go about their glamorous life, how they act with their fans. Man-management and time management skills must be learnt before coming to the IPL. The tournament is all about that….how to remain fresh and motivated before a game.

Now that you are married and about to have a child, how has that impacted you as a person?

It is always important to surround yourself with your family and friends. Cricket mein aaj hain, kal nahin honge (We are playing today, might not play tomorrow).Your wife, your kid, your parents will always be with you. It is important to have a solid bonding with them. You need to feel loved. The form can desert you any time. Today you could be performing, tomorrow you could fail miserably. It’s only your family that will be with you. For them, you are the same person. They won’t judge you. It’s a new life and experience for me and I am enjoying it. Priyanka has been very supportive.

    An avid sports lover, i always wanted to pursue a career in football. But just like the millions out there i did not put in the hard work needed to achieve my dream and now i have become a fan instead of the player. Anyway, writing for sports has kept me closer to this field. One more thing, yours sincerely is a die-hard Liverpool fan. You will never walk alone.

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