Books

Raina’s rollicking reign

B Baskar | Updated on July 27, 2021

A racy account about an exciting cricketer

Suresh Raina has chosen a one-word title for his book ‘Believe’. The dictum — “believe in yourself” — was taught to him by his guru Sachin Tendulkar and Raina the ‘shishya’ has faithfully abided by it. He has even gone to the extent of etching the word as a tattoo on his arm.

Raina in this book gives a glimpse of his life so far in an engaging and warm-hearted manner. In his endeavour, Raina has been ably assisted by journalist Bharat Sundaresan whose imprint is more than visible.

Raina grew up in Muradnagar, a small town in Western Uttar Pradesh, where his father worked in the Ordnance factory. Life was hard but happy enough but also shadowed by the tragic death of his elder brother in a road accident.

Raina as a child seems to have been more than a handful for the elders of the family, always playing mischief and getting punished for it. But his talent in cricket was spotted early and Raina persuaded his parents to send him to the sports college in Lucknow when he was barely in his early teens. Money was tight but Raina’s father, believing in his son’s talent, sent him there.

The years spent in the hostel away from his family are the most and most poignant and interesting sections of the book. Raina in the hostel endured horrific bullying and ragging, both physical and mental, by his seniors.

That such trauma early on did not leave life-long psychological scars, is either proof of Raina’s extraordinary mental fortitude or sheer luck or perhaps a mix of both.

But, most importantly, Raina holds no grudges against his seniors and says that his years in the hostel toughened him up for bigger challenges later in life. Raina’s talent caught the eye of the UP selectors and he made his debut for his State in Ranji Trophy at the age of 16. Raina, thanks to his talent and hard work, made a fairly linear and smooth progress to the Indian team at the age of 18.

Dravid’s imprint

Though Raina worships Tendulkar and shares a close bond with MS Dhoni, it is Rahul Dravid who seems to have left a deep imprint. This is not surprising as Raina made his debut under Dravid’s captaincy and played under him in his formative years in international cricket. Dravid’s man-management skills come in for a lot of appreciation.

Dravid made it a point to make the youngsters in the team speak their mind in the dressing room and used to value their inputs. This made Raina, given his small-town origins, feel at home in the Indian team.

Raina also recounts this amusing incident when Dravid took him along to a social event in Gwalior and made him speak about HIV awareness to an audience.

Though Dravid praised his speech, a bashful Raina begged his captain not to put him in such a spot ever again — instead he’d run as many laps or take as many catches in the practice sessions. Raina also recalls a rare instance when Dravid, unburdened by the pressures of captaincy, let his hair down and danced all night at a birthday party for Dhoni during the Caribbean tour of 2011.

Not surprisingly, the 2011 World Cup victory and his part in it gets an entire chapter. Even 10 years after that momentous event, Raina loves to look at his World Cup medal whenever he’s at home.

Greg Chappell’s controversial stint, surprisingly, also gets a chapter in the book, though Raina studiously avoids another controversial saga — the IPL fixing scandal where his team CSK was very much in the thick of it and even got suspended for a couple of years.

Raina has nothing but admiration for Chappell and his coaching ability. He is candid enough to admit that Chappell’s stint caused a lot of disharmony in the dressing room, especially among the seniors, but he credits Chappell for pushing him and making him a better player. He even credits Chappell for sowing the seeds for the 2011 World Cup victory.

The joys of marriage, companionship and fatherhood makes Raina’s journey that much more fulfilling. He is surprisingly candid about his test career not quite living up to its promise. It was in white ball cricket, especially IPL, where ‘Chinna Thala’, as he’s called in Chennai, really came into his own. It’s hardly a surprise that he chose to retire from international cricket the same day his close friend ‘Thala’ Dhoni did. This 167-page book is worth a read.

Published on July 27, 2021

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