Review: Believe; What Life and Cricket Taught Me by Suresh Raina, Bharat Sundaresan

This short and easy read has numerous engaging anecdotes from every phase of Suresh Raina’s life. Those who watched him play for Team India or follow the IPL will enjoy this book that seamlessly merges stories from the cricketer’s personal and professional life
Suresh Raina of the Chennai Super Kings playing against Kings XI Punjab during an IPL match at PCA stadium in Mohali, Punjab on May 05, 2019. (Ravi Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Suresh Raina of the Chennai Super Kings playing against Kings XI Punjab during an IPL match at PCA stadium in Mohali, Punjab on May 05, 2019. (Ravi Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Updated on Nov 12, 2021 05:43 PM IST
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ByBiswadeep Ghosh

It was on 15th August, 2020 that Suresh Raina announced his retirement from international cricket. During his days as a Team India cricketer, he had testified to his importance as a middle-order batsman with the ability to score quick runs, run briskly, and stitch together match-winning partnerships mainly in the shorter versions of the game. He could pick up crucial wickets with his off-spinning deliveries while his lightning-quick ground fielding and catching enhanced his significance in the playing eleven.

240pp, ₹299; Penguin
240pp, ₹299; Penguin

Raina retired the day former India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni waved his final goodbye to international cricket, his tribute to the latter for playing such an important role in his career. In his autobiography Believe: What Life and Cricket Taught Me co-written with cricket journalist Bharat Sundaresan, Raina tells the reader that Dhoni is known as Thala (Chief) and he, Chinna Thala (Deputy Chief) in Chennai, the home of their Indian Premier League franchise Chennai Super Kings. Being spoken of in the same breath as MSD makes him proud, he confesses.

As is the case with many cricketers of his generation, Raina idolised Sachin Tendulkar, which explains why a chapter on his impressions of the legend starts the book. He considers himself privileged to have had training sessions with Tendulkar early on in his career and remembers being amazed at the Master Blaster’s dedication and humility. One day, Tendulkar told him, “Believe in yourself. You can do it.” He got ‘Believe’ etched on his arm as a tattoo, and now, it is the title of his autobiography.

The cricketer from Muradnagar in Uttar Pradesh was born into a family of modest financial means, and he is admirably frank while talking about his early struggle. Playing in a drainage canal and having kulfi and bread pakodas are precious memories for him. His father was from Kashmir, and his mother, from Himachal Pradesh. Cricket fascinated the youngster at school, and he eventually made it to a sports hostel in Lucknow.

The short and easy read has numerous engaging anecdotes from every phase of Raina’s life. He was a good student and a fine cricketer, which made him a target of envious seniors at the hostel. He had to ensure their laundry was done, and there would be times when cold water was splashed on his face. He learned to live with such experiences despite the discomfort. They were a part of growing up.

Raina talks about several turning points, among them the U-19 World Cup in 2004. He received the Border-Gavaskar scholarship along with Shikhar Dhawan and Venugopal Rao, an occasion he recollects with pride because he had been picked by Sunil Gavaskar. Once in Australia, he watched greats like Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee and Matthew Hayden train from close quarters. The experience would contribute to his understanding of preparation at the highest level.

A cricketer representing his country has a variety of experiences when he travels and plays the game. So did Raina. The book talks about them, the best moment of his career being the 2011 World Cup triumph as a member of Team India led by Dhoni.

The highlights of the book, however, are the chapters on legends like Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Dhoni in which he reflects on their strengths both as players and human beings outside the field. The book also has a chapter on former Australian captain-turned-coach Greg Chappell, whose tenure as Team India coach was marked by allegations of politics and internal instability.

Raina will make a few eyebrows twitch with his statement that ‘...despite all the controversies around his coaching career, he (Chappell) taught India how to win and the importance of winning.” He does refer to Chappell’s shortcomings too, stating, “He should have respected them more – people like Sachin and Dada (Sourav Ganguly).” Some specific details in this context might have been an eye-opener.

Believe seamlessly merges stories from the cricketer’s personal and professional life. Those who watched the game when Raina played for Team India or follow the IPL in which he is a superstar will like the book.

Biswadeep Ghosh is an independent journalist. Among his books is MSD: The Man, The Leader, the biography of former Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni..

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Monday, January 24, 2022