Dhoni and Raina have played much of their cricket alongside each other, having turned out for India in 276 internationals together. They have also been teammates at Chennai Super Kings, where they have enjoyed a successful partnership, with CSK making eight appearances in the IPL final.
Looking back at the 2011 World Cup, which India won, after 28 years at home, Yuvraj recalled that Dhoni didn’t lose faith in Raina, despite the latter’s struggles with form around that time.
“Suresh Raina had a lot of support then, because MS used to back him. Every captain has a favourite player and I think Mahi really backed Raina at that time,” Yuvraj told Sports Tak.
Raina spent the first half of the tournament on the bench as Dhoni preferred the big-hitting skills of Yusuf Pathan, who could also chip in with some handy overs of off-spin. It took an injury to Virender Sehwag for him to break into the XI, but once he did, Dhoni preferred the left-hander over Pathan, implementing the change for the high-pressure quarter-final clash against Australia.
Raina repaid his captain’s faith by partnering Yuvraj in an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 74, as he saw India through in a chase of 261, remaining not out on 34 off 28 balls.
He then made an unbeaten 36 in the semi-final against rivals Pakistan, adding crucial runs to India’s total later in their innings. Yuvraj said that the captain faced a tough choice, but it eventually came down to picking between Raina and Pathan, as his own personal form, with bat and ball, made it impossible to drop him.
“Yusuf Pathan was also performing well at that time, and even I was doing well and was also picking wickets,” Yuvraj said. “And Raina was not in a good touch then.
“They did not have a left-arm spinner at that time and I was picking wickets so they did not have any choice.”