'Spell-Binding Spells' book review: Engrossing in spurts, but not as spell-binding as it promises to be

AT a time when the game itself is loaded more in favour of batsmen, it is rather surprising that Anindya Dutta decided to write a book titled Spell-Binding Spells.

Published: 25th December 2017 09:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th December 2017 09:04 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

CHENNAI : At a time when the game itself is loaded more in favour of batsmen, it is rather surprising that Anindya Dutta decided to write a book titled Spell-Binding Spells.As much as boundaries and si­xes give you excitement, nothing in cricket evokes the sort of feeling that one is engulfed in while wa­tching a brilliant spell of bowling.It brings with it varied emotions. It is what makes cricket, especially Tests, exhilarating to watch. Leave aside watching a batsman construct an innings — you can recollect the shots or at the most some leaves — but nothing comes as close as watching a top-notch spell delivered by a pacer. 

Dutta, for a change hasn’t just confined the book to some of the spells we routinely hear about. Anil Kumble’s 10-for, Jim Laker’s 19, Lance Gibbs against India, Stuart Broad’s 8/15, Curtly Ambrose’s 7/1 at Perth, and Sarfraz Nawaz 7/1 — cricket’s first introduction to reverse swing — all find a mention.
The biggest takeaway from this book, though, is that there are some yesteryear spells that even quite a few avid followers wouldn’t have come across. This isn’t a book that speaks only about spells that won matches. It is vast and thoroughly distributed in terms of eras and the romance each entailed.

In a chapter titled ‘Dream Debut Spells’, you know Narendra Hirwani will find a place. But what makes this chapter all the more interesting is when Dutta speaks about the efforts of Albert Trott, Bob Massie, Alf Valentine, he is also quick to bring up the name of Barinder Sran, who took 4/10 in a T20I against Zimababwe. It might sound a bit out of place, but that also reminds you that even in a format where batsmen rule the roost, bowling performances can’t be ignored.Apart from chapters that speak only about ODI and T20 spells, there are two that deserve a special mention: ‘Magnificent Spells, Heart Breaking Losses’ and ‘Best Spells from Cricketers Who Never Got to Play for Their County’.

The former reminds the reader that however good a player might be, it is hard for an individual to win a match on his own. The other also brings cricket’s forgotten men — Charles Ko­r­tright, Padmakar Shivalkar, Vintcent van der Bijl, and Franklyn Stephenson — to the forefront of memory. 
Though there is no doubt regarding the choice of spells mentioned, the book doesn’t provide anything more than what an avid aficionado hasn’t heard off or read about.

The book reads mostly like a hurriedly-put-together com­pi­lation with basic information. Mo­st of these chapters read like a match report pulled from archi­ves, rather than a vivid de­s­cr­iption of the spell itself.
For a book on impactful spells, readers may end up wishing for more narration and anecdotes, since at times it feels like skimming through Wikipedia.And finally, more time could have been spent on proof-reading, as there are a few glaring spelling mistakes like ‘Tony Locke’ and ‘Glen McGrath’.
venkatakrishna@newindianexpress.com

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