‘Raina has failed to take his chances’

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Former New Zealand captain and head coach of the Chennai Super Kings Stephen Fleming enjoys fair equity in the Indian Test side. Having worked closely with four members of the current unit in CSK, Fleming has a good understanding of the Indian side. The Kiwi got talking on issues surrounding the national team and New Zealand’s poor approach in the recently concluded Test series.

Q It has been a season of retirements. How difficult is it going to be for India to fill the big gap left by Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman?
A They are both legends of the game and can never be replaced in a hurry. Of what I saw, Virat (Kohli) is shaping up well and the first signs of Pujara are also good. All the new batsmen need time to improve. In fact we must not look at them as replacements for Rahul and Laxman as that might not happen. Look what happened to Australia when Hayden, Warne and McGrath all left around the same time.

Q With two senior batsmen retired, one expected Suresh Raina to step up. As someone who has worked with him how do you see his performance in Test cricket?
A It has been a case of there and thereabouts for Raina in Tests. He has to quickly find a balance in his game that will suit the longer version. Previously he was out defending way too much and he is over compensating it by being too aggressive here. He has not quite grabbed the chances that have been offered. Knowing him he will be disappointed for sure. He has the talent and will have to work around it.

Q The news making headlines is the call for Sachin Tendulkar to quit. Personally was it easy to give up after 15 seasons of top flight cricket? And when should Tendulkar go?
A To me the decision to retire was fairly straight forward and easy. I was pretty worn out mainly due to captaincy. The first match I saw after I quit, I did not actually miss being a player. There will be a day when that decision has to be made by every player. In the case of Sachin it has to be his own call. I was pretty finished by the time I hung my boots. From India’s perspective, all top players should not go at once as great players are not easy to replace. Sachin not only provides the team runs, he also has a lot more to offer to the younger players in the side. His knowledge transfer is vital and his mere presence adds a lot to the Indian dressing room.

Q You have literally seen Ashwin grow from a first-class cricketer to India’s spearhead. How do you assess his growth?
A It is actually Ashwin who keeps telling me what to do (laughs). He is a good example of taking what he learnt in limited overs cricket to Test cricket. And the good thing is he has made it work well for him. What has impressed me most is his improvement as a batsman; he does not get much chance with CSK but has done well overall. The runs he contributes have been crucial. He has shown all round development to his game. He has been pushing himself to do better and no surprise that he has been doing extremely well.

Q Finally the Kiwis surrendered the Test series although there was some fight in the second Test. What went wrong?
A I thought they went a touch defensive in batting. The top order is full of stroke makers and they should have played their natural game as Ross Taylor did in the second Test. Most of them are actually T20 products and should have been aggressive in intent. The team definitely missed Jesse Ryder. Any side would like to have a player of his calibre. The medium pacers though gave a good account of themselves.

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