Having announced his retirement from international cricket last year, Suresh Raina is out with his autobiography 'Believe' where he has touched upon various facets of Indian cricket. He represented India in 322 matches across formats in a career which spanned for thirteen years. Making his debut in 2005, Raina played primarily under the captaincy of three full-time India captains - Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
While Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly are hailed as two of the greatest captains to lead India, Dravid's name often gets forgotten. “Generally, when people talk about the Indian cricket team that has emerged over the last 10–15 years, the credit is usually given to Dhoni, or to Ganguly before him, for having built the team and taken Indian cricket forward. I have never quite agreed with that. I never say Dada made this team. He, and Dhoni, did lead and make an impact on it, that’s true. But the man responsible for making the teams for all three formats of the game is Rahul Dravid", writes Raina in his book, an excerpt of which was published in The Print.
Raina mentioned the role that Dravid played in his career and many other youngsters. “Rahul Bhai was always like family. He would keep fighting for the rights of the junior players. Those extra efforts always matter and leave an impact on people. Youngsters were very important to him. Look at the kind of players who matured under him—the ones that went on to lead India over the next decade. These included MS Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj, Piyush Chawla, Dinesh Karthik, Munaf Patel, S. Sreesanth and myself. Rahul Bhai knew that these seven or eight boys would be the face of the team in the coming years. And he made sure that we were nurtured well", explains Raina.
The left-hander made his India debut under Dravid's captaincy in 2005. Facing the legendary Sri Lanka spinner, Muttiah Muralitharan, Raina was dismissed for a golden duck. However, he was persisted with in the XI and scored a handy 35 against West Indies the next day while batting at three.
“Rahul Bhai would often fight with selectors to include young talent in the Indian team. And one advice he would keep giving us was that we should go back to playing Ranji Trophy whenever possible, perform well and score heavily there, and then come and play for the Indian team again. He was an extremely match-oriented coach and player that way. He would himself keep playing multiple matches for his state in the Ranji Trophy. In fact, when we would practice at the NCA, I heard him complain a couple of times; he told us that we should instead be playing Ranji Trophy matches."
The southpaw narrated an incident when Dravid gave him a lashing. “We were in Malaysia for a tri-series involving the West Indies and Australia. I walked into some shop in a mall and bought a new T-shirt. I was very happy with my purchase and walked out wearing it before bumping into Rahul Bhai. The T-shirt was a branded one: it had ‘FCUK’ written in bold letters right across the middle. I really had no idea what it meant or what it could be perceived as. I just liked how it looked on me."
“Rahul Bhai gave me a proper dressing down right there in the mall. ‘Do you know what you are wearing and walking around in? You are an Indian cricketer. You cannot be out in public with that written on your T-shirt,’ he said. I had no answer. I tried explaining to him that I didn’t know it had a bad connotation. I was so taken aback and scared that I immediately went to the restroom, changed into something else and threw that T-shirt in the bin", writes Raina.
Raina elaborated further on his bond with the former India captain. He explains how Dravid loosened up a bit after his captaincy stint. "Those last few years, he was almost a different man at times. He wanted to joke around all the time.
"We had thrown a surprise birthday party to Mahi Bhai in Dominica [July, 2011]. I remember being shocked when Rahul Bhai showed up in these tight jeans, sipping on a drink or two, and even dancing around. It was a side of him I had never seen before. I walked up to him and said, ‘Rahul Bhai, aap theek ho na? Aapko kya ho gaya?’ [Are you okay, what happened to you]. He just shot back at me saying, ‘Arré, Suresh, come on yaar, have some fun.""
Raina states that Dravid, his first captain in international cricket, was one of the first few people he informed about his decision to quit international cricket.
"It’s a level of trust and closeness that I have not shared with too many people during my life and career. So, of course, Rahul Bhai was one of the first people I informed when I decided to retire from international cricket in 2020."