Raina relishing good form
Suresh Raina, India's in-form middle-order batsman, has expressed his delight at his strong start to the new season.
Raina hasn't been India's leading runscorer in the one-day international series against Sri Lanka, with both Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli ahead of him, but he has put in telling performances in both of India's wins with two half-centuries and a strike rate of 122.10.
"It was such a relief for the team to put up a big total in our first international game after over four months," he told Times of India. "There are always questions asked about the fitness and mental preparedness after a long break. But we answered them well."
Raina failed in India's nine-wicket defeat in the second ODI, a match he called a "disaster", but played a leading role as India took a 2-1 series lead in the third match.
Entering the fray with a marauding Lasith Malinga on a hat-trick and India needing over 100 in the last 15 overs, Raina displayed remarkable sang froid in the course of a match-winning 92-run stand with allrounder Irfan Pathan.
"Of course there was pressure when Irfan bhai joined me in the middle," he said. "Had one of us departed early it would have been the end of our chase. But once Irfan started to strike the ball cleanly, it eased a lot of pressure.
"When that target got close, we kept telling each other not to throw it away. Irfan bhai proved once again that he is more than a handy batsman down the order and he, too, deserves accolades. It was good that we came back strongly on Saturday night. We will aim to clinch the series in the fourth game on Tuesday."
India host New Zealand for two Tests in August and September before the English arrive for a full tour that includes four Tests at the end of the year, and Raina's early-season form could help him secure a permanent spot in the Test side.
"My job is to score runs for the country. And I am happy that I have begun the season on a positive note. If I get a chance, I should be ready to fulfill the expectations."
India play the fourth ODI against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.