Even today, Suresh Raina would prefer to sleep on the floor and not on a bed. It’s the way he grew up – in a hostel far from the loving atmosphere of the home – where each day would be a new challenge. The excessive and brutal bullying from seniors wrecked such havoc in Suresh’s mind that he contemplated suicide. Through a recent report in The Indian Express, one gets a glimpse of the atrocities Suresh faced in his growing years.
While sleeping on a newspaper on the floor between berths in a train-on the way to a match, Suresh felt a weight on his chest and even before he could open his eyes, his hands were pinned down. A big kid was on his chest, and had started urinating on his face. After a brief tussle, even as the train was grinding to a halt, Suresh pushed the bully off him – “ek ghoosa maara, and threw him off the train”. Suresh was 13 then, and struggling to cope in the Sports Hostel in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
Boys in the hostel were ruthless with Suresh. He reckoned it was because some boys, from the athletics branch, were jealous that he was getting the attention from cricket coaches and that he could get ahead in life. “They were there to get certificate from the hostel. Spend four years, take certificate and get a job in Railways or wherever in sports quota.” Soon, it got worse. Trash would be thrown into milk buckets. “We used to use a chunni (worn like a long scarf) to filter and drink.” Bucket of cold water would be splashed at 3 am on a bone-chilling winter night. “You just wanted to get up and beat them but you know if you hit one, five will jump on you. Kya Karen,” Suresh said. Finally, he quit the hostel only to return with a new resolve. To channelise his anger in a positive way.
A call came from Mumbai to play cricket for Air India — an event that he credits as life-changing. “UP mey rehta toh bas khatam ho jaata, chote mote games khelte hue.” At Air India, Pravin Amre encouraged him a lot and things began to flow. In 1999, Raina got a scholarship with Air India that paid him Rs 10,000. “I would send 8,000 to my family. A STD call to home would cost four rupees, and as soon as two minutes would end, I would keep the phone down. All that taught me the value of money,” Suresh recalls.
The IPL was another turning point in Suresh’s life. He had lost some precious months recuperating from a knee surgery — “that was the toughest time, I was afraid my career was over and I had 80 lakh of house loan” — but he did come back. In April 2015, Suresh married Priyanka Chaudhary, an IT professional in a bank in Amsterdam. “Marriage has brought stability and responsibility. I just used to play and go away. Now I look at the contracts more carefully. How I can utilise time better, plan for future. We might have a kid in the future, and you know about cricketer’s life. Lagta hai kaam bahut jyaada hai, time bahut kam hai. (It seems like there is lot of work, and time is very less). Priyanka and Suresh recently welcomed their first born-a girl.