Christchurch:He was proclaimed the Michael Bevan of Indian cricket when he arrived on the international scene. And much like the Australian match-winner, Suresh Raina couldn't settle into the groove as he found and lost his way in and out of the team.
Injury and poor form also contributed to his exile from international cricket before he fought his way back into the side with powerful performances in domestic cricket.
Fortunately, the feisty left hander, who whacks the ball hard and clear, has established himself as a pivotal batsman in the side. His swiftness and alacrity also provides thrust to the none-too-impressive Indian fielding.
In two games on this tour, the 22-year-old has wrenched his side of tight situations with authoritative half centuries (61 off 43 balls in the first T20 and 66 from 39 in the first ODI at Napier).
Be it at number three, five or six, he has produced runs when the team has needed it the most. And though he has been moved up and down the batting ladder, he said it did not affect his psyche.
"I am comfortable with the changes in batting order. As long as the team is doing really well, I am happy with whether I am playing three, five or six. At the end of the day, we are winning matches and that is really important for us," Raina told repoters.
But wouldn't he prefer a permanent slot? "I can bat at any number the team management asks of me. But if I am asked to bat at three, I can," Raina said.
Raina attributed his success in the series to condition-specific practice sessions.
"We had a quality practice session before the tour. I think it is really important to prepare yourself before the game. The ball does a bit initially when you go in to bat. So you have to hang in there for a while".
Also, you have to select your bowler, read the circumstances, your areas, sort out your game plan before stepping on the pedal," said Raina.
The left-hander was confident that India could win the third ODI against New Zealand, rain-permitting.
"If it doesn't rain, I am confident we will do well. We batted well in the last match too. If we can win here, it will be good for the rest of the series.
"We are doing well in our opening partnerships. Last match, Sachin and Sehwag played really well. It is a good combination at the moment. If we continue the same way, it will be good for the team."
Raina said New Zealand has offered the toughest conditions he had ever played in.
"This being the toughest conditions that I have played in, my plan is to play normally, read the situation and get a partnership going. And now that I have done well, I can learn from here on. It will be good for me if I could improve my game and mindset."
Now that he is regular in the team, where does he see his career go from here?
"I feel good if I can contribute to the team's cause. When I was on my way back from injury, the team was packed.
Robin (Uthappa) and Rohit (Sharma) were around. I didn't play in Australia. I played domestic cricket and worked very hard on my game.
"This is my opportunity. I feel I can do better. Though the focus is now on one-dayers, I am looking forward to Test cricket. I will give 100 per cent to the side when I get the chance," signed off the youngster, who has caught the imagination of the antipodean cricket buffs, inspiring a "Raina, Raina Go Away" headline in a local daily.