Suresh Raina, Chennai Super Kings’ southpaw, on the ongoing IPL series and missing the ‘home advantage’

Suresh Raina loves all things Chennai. Last year, in between all the cricket, he brought his then brand-new sports car — a Porsche Boxter Limited — to the city and hit the streets with it. He even drove down to the stadium from the team hotel for a few practise sessions, much to the delight of many fans.

But, all that will not happen this year. Due to the stalemate over the three stands at the stadium, Chepauk will not go yellow this season and the screams of ‘CSK’ will be confined to the drawing rooms of cricket fanatics. It’s not just fans, but even players are disappointed.

“I miss Chepauk and the Chennai crowd a lot,” says Raina, one of the leading run-getters for the team, “We have played in this ground for all the seasons now and every player in the team, especially those who’ve been with the team since the start, share a special bond with the MA Chidambaram stadium. So, when we heard the news that we won’t be playing in Chennai, it was a huge disappointment. But, these things are not in your hands. I think we will concentrate our energies into playing the next few matches to the best of our potential and doing well in the series.”

The seventh edition of the sporting extravaganza started off on a rather sombre note for the Chennai team — if the match-fixing controversy surrounding its ‘team principal’ made things hard initially, the fact that ‘home’ shifted from Chennai to Ranchi meant adjusting to new playing conditions. To top it all, the team sported a ‘new look’ due to the inclusion of a fresh crop of players from the latest auction. “Having new players in the team actually worked in our favour. All the new players in the CSK setup this season, including McCullum (Brendon McCullum) and Badree (Samuel Badree), have gelled well with the rest of us. We get along well with all of them. It’s actually a good platform for us Indian players to learn from the best of the world,” he explains.

Suresh Raina is the only cricketer who has played in every single game in the IPL, since its inception. What eggs him on to play without taking a break? “It’s the desire to wear yellow all the time and perform well. God has been kind to me. I’ve worked hard on my fitness in recent times.

I hit the gym every day and have worked hard on my game. I’m happy that it’s paying off.”

Skipper M.S. Dhoni has been a huge inspiration for Raina since the time he started playing cricket. “Whenever I think of Dhoni, the words ‘discipline and commitment’ come to my mind first,” he says, “These are some qualities that cannot be taught; you imbibe it gradually when you work closely with him. His discipline has been one of the main reasons why our team has been successful in the IPL seasons thus far.”

The other reason for their success, according to him, is the emphatic support they’ve received from fans across the world. “For me, off-the-field behaviour is as important as how a player is on the field — even simple things like how you interact with fans determine a player’s character. I feel that it’s the immense fan support the team enjoys that pushes us every time to do well.

Apart from being knowledgeable about the sport, the average Chennai fan is very enthusiastic and always wants us to play our best,” he adds.

He plans to keep his date with the city soon. “I should be coming there to train and plan to spend a few weeks there,” he says, “Hopefully, that should happen after the IPL and the Bangaladesh series.”

So, is he still driving the fancy sports car he bought in 2013? “It’s at home and it’s a pity that I can’t ride it on Chennai’s roads like last year. I’ve not had enough time to take it out — I hope to do so sometime soon,” he signs off.