Prime Minister Narendra Modi has paid rich tribute to Suresh Raina, who recently announced his retirement from international cricket, saying the former Indian batsman never played for personal glory but for the glory of the team and the country.
Like MS Dhoni, Raina too on the occasion of India's 74th Independence Day, hanged his boots from international cricket via a social media post.
"On 15th August, you decided to make what would surely have been one of the toughest decisions of your life. I do not want to use the word 'retirement' because you are way too young and energetic to 'retire'," Prime Minister Modi said in a letter addressed to Raina.
"You are padding up for the next innings of your life, after an extremely fruitful innings on the cricket field," he added in the letter he tweeted.
The 33-year-old expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister by tweeting back: "When we play, we give our blood & sweat for the nation. No better appreciation than being loved by the people of this country and even more by the country's PM. Thank you Narendra Modiji for your words of appreciation & best wishes. I accept them with gratitude. Jai Hind!"
Raina represented India in 18 Tests, 226 ODIs and 78 T20Is in an international career spanning 13 years.
"You have lived and breathed cricket. Your interest in the sport began early in life, in the by-lanes of Muradnagar and subsequently found feet in the playgrounds of Lucknow," said Prime Minister Modi.
"There on, what an eventful journey it has been, culminating in the most important honour of representing India – a country you love deeply – in all three forms of the game.
"Generations will remember you not only as a fine batsman but also as a very useful bowler who the captain could turn to when the situation demanded. Your fielding was exemplary and inspiring.
"Some of the best catches in recent international cricket have your distinctive imprint. It would take days to count just the number of runs you have saved by your alertness on the field," he added.
Raina first made his international debut at the age of 18 and also led India in ODIs and T2OIs when he turned 23.
He is the youngest to lead an India men's T20I side and was also a member of the side that played in India's first-ever T20I. The southpaw is also the first Indian to score a century in the T20 World Cup.
"As a batsman, you especially distinguished yourself across all mediums and particularly in the newest form of the game, the T20 cricket. This is not an easy format. In tune with our times, it requires quick fixes in double quick time. Again, your promptness and speed were assets for this form," said the Prime Minister while praising Raina's performance in the shortest format of the game.
Raina was part of the World Cup winning team in 2011, when India defeated Sri Lanka in the summit clash at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. He had played a crucial role in India's successful campaign in the tournament and Prime Minister Modi recalled his valuable performance in the quarterfinals against Australia.
"India can never forget your inspiring role during the 2011 World Cup, especially during the later matches. I saw you live in action at the Motera Stadium, Ahmedabad, during the quarterfinal against Australia. Your anchoring innings had a big role to play in our team's victory," he said.
"I can confidently say that most fans will miss seeing your elegant cover drives, one which I was lucky to witness live that day.
The Prime Minister further praised the left-handed batsman for his fighting spirit which he believes is deeply motivating for the youngsters
"Sportspersons are admired not only for their conduct on the field but also off the field. Your fighting spirit can motivate many youngsters," stated Prime Minister Modi.
"During your cricketing career, you sometimes faced setbacks including injuries but every time you overcame these challenges, thanks to your tenacity. At the same time, Suresh Raina will always be synonymous with team spirit.
"You played not for personal glory but for the glory of your team and the glory of India. Your enthusiasm on the field was infectious, and we could all witness that you would be among the first and most animated players to celebrate the fall of the opposing team's wicket," he added.
Prime Minister Modi, towards the end in his letter, also praised Raina for his efforts towards women empowerment and Swachh Bharat and wished him luck for his second innings beyond cricket.
"Your care and compassion towards society is visible in your numerous community service efforts. You have passionately supported efforts towards women empowerment, Swachh Bharat and helping the needy," said the Prime Minister.
"I am glad you are attached to India's cultural roots and proud of deepening youth's connection with our glorious ethos as well as value systems. I am confident you will have an equally fruitful and successful innings in whatever you wish to pursue in the times to come.
"I do hope you will use this opportunity to spend even more quality time with Priyanka, Gracia and Rio.
"Thank you for doing whatever you can to make India a leader in sports and constantly inspiring young minds," he signed off..