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Suresh Raina: Chinna Thala who was the Soul of Chennai Super Kings

Suresh Raina is the fourth highest run-getter in the history of IPL with 5528 runs to his name.

IPL 2022 Auction_ Suresh Raina went unsold in IPL 2022 Auction. Chennai Super Kings didn't for Suresh Raina in IPL 2022 Auction. (Image ©Twitter/CSK)
Suresh Raina went unsold in IPL 2022 Mega Auction. (Image ©Twitter/CSK)

February 12, Saturday was an emotional day not only for the fans of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) but also for all the Indian Premier League (IPL) spectators. Mr IPL, Suresh Raina, after enlightening this tournament with the colours of his runs and several fabulous moments found himself neglected by Chennai and the rest of the teams in this year’s mega-auction.

Chinna Thala, Chennai, number three and soul: these were a few words associated to Raina that have the potential to create a new world of stories one can pen down. Since the start of the competition back in 2008, every time one thinks about CSK, two people come into mind, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina, Thala and Chinna Thala.

Suresh ‘Splendid’ Raina’s IPL Record

There was a time when the total number of games played by both Chennai and Suresh Raina hardly had any difference. That tells us how close Chennai bore a relationship with one of the fittest left-handers on the planet.

In his 205 IPL games, Raina has smacked 5528 runs at an average of 32.51 at a strike rate of 136.76 with his best being exactly 100*. In this process, 203 sixes and 509 fours had come out of his willow apart from the small matter of 39 half centuries and one solitary century.

Even with ball in hand, Raina has picked up 25 wickets at an economy of just 7.38 after bowling almost 151 overs providing the leader an extra cushion in the bowling department.

On the field too, he has grabbed 108 catches while fielding at various positions. Raina also led Gujarat Lions for two seasons when Chennai faced a two-year ban during 2016-17. As a senior Indian player, he was the backbone of the yellow jersey.

Records Speak for Raina

Nobody has touched the consistency of Suresh Raina especially playing for such a long time. The southpaw had made so many records and let’s take a look at some of these.

  • Raina had gathered at least 400 runs on a regular basis in the first seven seasons with the most being 548 runs in 2013 to carry Chennai into the finals.

  • Suresh Raina was the first batter to reach 5000 runs in the Indian Premier League.

  • With 33 fifties, the prolific run-scorer has managed to bring up the highest number of half-centuries along with most runs for Chennai Super Kings.

  • Suresh Raina has hit the most number of fours in IPL with 425 boundaries to his name.

  • The UP boy has also smashed the second-most number of sixes for Chennai in the

  • IPL. His 180 sixes are second to his partner in crime, MS Dhoni, for CSK.

IPL 2022 Auction_ Suresh Raina went unsold in IPL 2022 Auction. Chennai Super Kings didn't for Suresh Raina in IPL 2022 Auction. (©BCCI_IPL)
Suresh Raina has 5528 runs to his name, 4th highest in IPL history (©BCCI/IPL)

Top Three IPL Innings from Suresh Raina

Out of his so many incredible match-winning knocks for the “Whistle Podu” army, let’s narrow down to his top three innings over the years.

IPL 2014, 2nd Qualifier: Punjab had no Answer to Raina at Wankhede

It was the second qualifier in the 7th edition of the cash-rich league where CSK were eyeing a massive 227-run target against Kings XI Punjab who had been powered to the score, shouldering on Virender Sehwag’s 58-ball 122.

To put things in perspective, out of 25 balls Raina faced, only seven balls didn’t cross the fence at the Wankhede Stadium that night. By the end of the powerplay, Raina had raced away to a blazing 87 off 25 deliveries as CSK had 100/2 on the board.

Whether it was the pace of Mitchell Johnson or the swing of Sandeep Sharma or the pace of Parvinder Awana, Raina showed all the shots in the book. 6, 6, 4, 4, 4 (nb), 4, 4 was the treatment Awana received in an over. The flicks, square-cuts, pulls and drives were really eye-catching that evening.

At last, Raina was dismissed by a run out as Chennai fell short by 24 runs.

IPL 2013, CSK vs KXIP: Raina’s Love Affair with Punjab

A year back in 2013, Raina had reached his maiden IPL century against Punjab in Chennai. Coming early in the middle, he began on a positive note hoisting KXIP captain David Hussey for a boundary off the third delivery he faced. He was attacking the spinners well with magnificent footwork all around the park.

When the slog overs arrived, the left-hander assumed his wild character as he held his pose after hitting two eye-catching sixes off Manpreet Gony in the 16th over. The end overs were coming close as Raina required 11 runs to complete his century. A marvelous shot for half-a-dozen followed by a single on the penultimate delivery powered him to the three-figure mark.

The opponents did fight well thanks to fifties from Shaun Marsh and David Miller but failed to reach the goal and lost by a margin of 15 runs.

IPL 2009, CSK vs RR: A master-class from Suresh Raina

A class player stands out in crucial times. That innings from Suresh Raina against Rajasthan Royals in Centurion in IPL 2009 was far more glistering than a hundred.

It was the second edition of the mega-event when Chennai were up against the defending champions, Rajasthan. Batting first, the runners-up were limping at 29-2 in the last over of the powerplay when Raina arrived on the crease. Already being in top form that year, the left-hander secured vital runs by settling the pace of the innings at the beginning and then fired up in the end.

The SuperSport Park in Centurion remained stunned with Raina’s 10 fours and 5 sixes. Even luck was his best friend that evening as after an epic knock of 98 in just 55 balls, Raina departed in the last over of the innings. To make it more glorifying, Chennai reached 164 out of which 60 per cent runs had come from their reliable number 3 batter.

The Yellow Army went on to win the match by 38 runs.

One Poor Year with Absence in 2020 ended the 12-year Relationship

After a decent year with the bat in IPL 2019 where Raina secured 383 runs at an average of 24 and strike rate of just 122, questions were raised over his ability. Then he pulled out in the 2020 season due to Covid scare which saw Chennai missing the playoff spot for the very first time.

Even though Chennai won their 4th title in 2021, Raina with just a solitary fifty managed just 160 runs at an average of 18, his lowest in the tournament history and also missed few games at the business end due to injury. His fear against short balls was spotted by all the franchises.

“We thought Suresh Raina may not fit into this team,” - CSK CEO

To be fair, Raina lost his place in the Chennai set up the moment the team management replaced him with Moeen Ali at number three and with Rayudu and others to follow, Raina had a flimsy chance to be in the eleven.

“Raina has been one of the most consistent performers for CSK for the last 12 years; of course, it was difficult for us,” CSK CEO Kasi Viswanath revealed in a video. “But at the same time, you should understand, the team composition depends on the form and kind of team which any team would like to have, so that’s one of the reasons why we thought he may not fit into this team,” he added.

Bowling coach, Lakshmipathy Balaji too has expressed disappointment on not having Raina for 2022. “Suresh Raina was just an incredible match-winner for CSK; he will be one of the greatest players ever to play for CSK.”

Raina and Yellow - The emotional end

Even if not by Chennai, Suresh Raina could be picked by other sides. At 35, he still has 3-4 years left in the tank but it would have been a nightmare to see him in any colour except yellow.

He had taken India to many trophies in the past but imagining Suresh Raina in yellow is altogether a different but vital chapter of the book.


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