BelieveMartin Chandler |
Author: Raina, Suresh
Rating: 3.5 stars
It was very kind of a friend in India to send me a copy of this book, but I have to confess to not having had any immediate plans to read it following its arrival. After all it is an end of career autobiography, the sort of book that can be a little on the self indulgent side.
I was also not much enthused by the fact that, at Test and First Class level anyway, Suresh Raina was a long way from being an all time great. Stellar achievement on the field is not, I know from long experience, a pre-requisite for an interesting story. But the fact that I also knew there were some mighty deeds in the game’s shorter formats, on which I would expect the book to concentrate, did not do anything to enhance its appeal.
Noting also as I looked quickly at the book that it contained no sort of index or statistical appendix, and that the chapter listing suggested a not insignificant part of the content comprised eulogies to Messrs Tendulkar, Dravid and Dhoni I really was not at all impressed and, whilst thanking my friend for his kindness, expressed my misgivings to him.
Given our shared preference for Test and First Class cricket I was not entirely surprised to find that my friend shared my concerns, but I did take on board his caveat that he thought that nonetheless I would enjoy Believe. Not for the first time in such matters his assessment proved to be right on the mark.
So what makes Believe a rewarding read? I will mention first the ‘dreaded’ eulogies. For myself, and a good few Englishmen, Tendulkar never really ceased to be the precocious teenager who made such an impression on us in 1990. His career went on and on of course, in doing so touching heights that may never be reached again. But I have never been able to think of him as a senior player, or to really understand him as a person at all. That has changed now that I have had the opportunity to read Raina on Sachin Paaji.
Dravid is different. The man was always an absolute joy to watch, particularly when he put the English bowling to the sword in the way he did in 2002 and 2011. It was always obvious to all that as well as being a genius with the bat Dravid was also one of the game’s gentlemen, but in many ways he too remained an elusive character. Again Raina’s chapter on Rahul Bhai tells his reader all they need to know about Dravid the man.
And what of Dhoni or, as Raina refers to him, Mahi Bhai? Of these three modern greats of the Indian game he has always been the one of whom I knew the least, and again in that respect Raina has done me a great service in shedding light on the personality of ‘Captain Cool’.
There is also much of Raina himself in Believe, and whilst cricket has dominated his life it is his development as a person that takes up as much space in Believe as his evolution as a cricketer and the book is much the better for that. The ups and downs of his childhood in Muradnagar, and subsequent experiences at the Lucknow Sports Hostel are fascinating*. Raina was then still only 16 when he made his First Class debut, and as an immature 18 year old he found himself on the other side of the world, having a stint as a professional in the Bolton League in Lancashire.
Believe is not a long book by any means, but by the time I had finished it I understood the far from straightforward journey that Suresh Raina had to take from his humble beginnings to sporting stardom and also felt I knew what made him tick. For that great credit must go to Raina for not holding back in his conversations with his ghost, the Adelaide based journalist Bharat Sundaresan, whose well paced narrative captures his story very well.
*I feel sure that ‘ragging’ must be a euphemism – like many in Believe it is a word well chosen