Despite not having played for India since the 2019 ODI World Cup semi-final, MS Dhoni was showing no signs of getting tired during Chennai Super Kings’ training camp in March before coronavirus pandemic caused postponement of Indian Premier League, Suresh Raina has said.
Raina, who last played for India in 2018 and has not played competitive cricket in IPL 2019 final, was busy preparing for the 2020 edition in Chennai before the nationwide lockdown was announced. The tournament was also supposed to be MS Dhoni’s comeback event but has been indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic.
Speaking on Star Sports Hindi’s talk show Cricket Connected, Raina spoke in detail about Dhoni’s preparations for this year’s IPL during the camp at Chepauk.
“Rayudu, myself, Mahi bhai and Murali (Vijay) were in one batting group. Mahi bhai usually bats for long hours when he is in Chennai, maybe two to four hours,” Raina said.
“And this time he was just not getting tired of batting. He was doing his gym in the morning, followed by batting for nearly hours in the evening. When you spend the day at the nets, from gym workouts to fielding workouts to batting then the next morning it leads to some stiffness in the body. We are that stage when the body has become a little slower and you have to put in the extra effort and work for five hours for a even during a three-hour training session so that you can play a four-hour match without getting tired.”
Raina, who had earlier said that Dhoni had the hunger of a youngster before the scheduled start of IPL this year, reiterated that there was something very different about his preparations for the 2020 season.
“The first few days he took it lightly and just focused on going to the gym. But (once training started) he was playing the shots beautifully and his fitness level was great and he was not getting tired. We used to have a gym session from 9 or 9.30 am, a pool session in the afternoon and we would leave by 5pm. I just felt that his preparations were different this time. I have played with him over the years with the national side and IPL, but it was different this time,” the CSK stalwart added.
With reports of IPL being held in a window later this year, Raina added that he hoped the world can see soon how ready Dhoni was.
“I just hope the matches can start quickly then everyone can see how well prepared he is and see what I saw myself live in the two months of camp that we had. When someone works hard, then the prayers and blessings find their way to them.”
Raina also spoke about the famous Kieron Pollard dismissal in the IPL 2010 final when Dhoni had two fielders placed almost straight behind the umpire for the Mumbai Indians batsman. In a tense run-chase, when Pollard was smashing the ball batting at No 8, the wicket proved crucial.
“If Pollard had come a little earlier, the match would have ended two overs before the 20th. He was hitting the ball so well. When it was Albie’s over, Mahi bhai saw that Pollard was hitting the ball so straight that he placed two fielders to the left of the umpire, almost sticking to each other in the view of the sightscreen (one inside the circle and one outside) Albie had the tendency to bowl a heavy ball short of length which was not easy to get under and gain elevation. It was good Mahi kept Hayden right behind the umpire because he had such good reach, vertically or for low catches. The moment Hayden caught it I knew we won the match.— Rain on Star Sports' show Cricket Connected
Speaking of batting with Dhoni, the Uttar Pradesh batsman said he enjoyed the freedom he was offered.
“For whatever time we have played together, Dhoni has given me the license to bat freely and he always knew my capability,” Raina said.
“Whatever strengths I have in my game and whenever things were going great for me, if I needed to tweak something, he would also slowly give me a warning and tell me what the results could be if there is a change in the strategy and then he would leave the final call to me. He would not try to change anything but he would let you know the outcome or result and how the situation of the team will be. So, he is also covering my batting and he is also telling me where the team can be.”