'Indian Innings', book that pens down the history of Indian cricket

This comprehensive collection on the gentleman’s sport shines the spotlight on the players from an earlier era.

Published: 23rd January 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd January 2022 06:35 PM   |  A+A-

Kapil Dev receiving the 1983 World Cup

Kapil Dev receiving the 1983 World Cup

Express News Service

What I like most about this book is that it’s a compilation from a bunch of diverse, mostly brilliant writers, who wrote as they saw the game of cricket developing in India. As a diehard fan of the game, one thoroughly enjoyed reading the honest views such as critiques from former players like Bishan Singh Bedi.

The best part is the way the history of the game is narrated, very effectively, through an assortment of writers. I have gone through a couple of books on the history of cricket. Often the narrative gets stodgy as they are bogged down by an avalanche of statistics. Yes, they are important as numbers tell their own story. But this book uses them to embellish the narrative judiciously. 

To Ayaz Memon goes the credit of selecting the pieces thoughtfully. He adds his own twist beneath certain stories which work quite well. Having known Sanjay Manjrekar over a period of time, I quite enjoyed the subtle dig made by Memon after printing Manjrekar’s Dilip Sardesai memorial lecture. In time, Manjrekar has flowered with his thoughts. Yet, he cannot escape some sad clichés like the constant use of “taking the bull by the horns.” 

Having followed cricket assiduously since the 70s, and producing cricket chat shows for television later, I have always felt the need to know more about players from an earlier era. This book fulfils that need. So, you have some superb writers like KN Prabhu, Mihir Bose, Ramachandra Guha, Dicky Rutnagar, R Mohan, Clayton Murzello, and many more bringing to life stars of a previous era.

What made Vinoo Mankad an outstanding all-rounder? A closer look at Subhash Gupte, Jasu Patel, Dattu Phadkar, Lala Amarnath, Chandu Borde makes for fascinating reading. The diverse voices make the book less pedantic, racy, easy to grasp and refer to, and pretty much freewheeling.

Shashi Tharoor does a superb take on the great Sunil Gavaskar. The best part of the piece is bringing out his failures as captain. His ultra-defensive approach to the game, inability to anticipate match proceedings and that awful penchant for draws.

Possibly, the greatest opener in modern cricket, yet was he supremely selfish as a batsman? Did his ego get the better of him in his tussle with Kapil Dev? Was he so short-tempered that he could not control his emotions in the spat with Dennis Lillee? We tend to see our heroes through a rosy prism. Credit goes to the book, for bringing this out to millennials who only know of Gavaskar as a smart commentator.

The book documents the transition of Indian cricket from being a bunch of individuals to Team India. It took many years for that to happen. From the days of Polly Umrigar, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare to India getting its first astute captain under Tiger Pataudi who actually instilled the spirit of a united team gunning for wins. Dr Makarand Waingankar writes a beautiful piece on Tiger, which brings out the man, who faced fast bowlers with his impaired vision in one eye. Emergence of the spin trio: Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrasekhar under his leadership.

There are two vivid instances of cricketing memory. One is the famous 1983 World Cup victory under Kapil Dev. And the second, Javed Miandad hitting that last ball six off Chetan Sharma to beat India at Sharjah. Since many of us saw those matches live, I surely did, one tends to think: what happened next? Where were you when the games were played?

Rajdeep Sardesai writes lucidly on being present at the match in London when Kapil Dev and his team did the impossible by beating a marauding West Indies to lift the World Cup. What this piece does is give a human touch to the proceedings. The next instance I remember equally vividly. It was very gutting. Poor Chetan Sharma would struggle for a long time to shed the tag of “loser”. Maybe his hat-trick against New Zealand helped later.

Later, the match fixing scandal would follow leaving its own peculiar destruction in its wake. Rohit Brijnath’s piece on Azharuddin is a tad disappointing. There is too much emphasis on word play rather than bringing out the personality transformation in a small-town boy who would ride the waves. Having spent time with Azhar, I know why he likes to wear expensive suits or why he has a disdain for cricket writers.

As an end wrap, suffice to say the book showcases some old names who were known by their bylines, erudition, felicity of language and a deep understanding of the game. Contrast that with modern writers like Mudar Patherya, Sharda Ugra, Suresh Menon who don’t like being button-holed in the ultra-diplomatic category. That is a relief.

Indian Innings: The Journey of Indian Cricket from 1947
Edited by: Ayaz Memon
Publisher: Westland Sport
Pages: 581
Price: Rs 899


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