Sunday 25 September 2016
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The Great Indian Misfields

The writing is far from sparkling, doesn't adequately explore the characters involved, and is biased towards the well-known, but it does provide some insights.
Once Upon A Furore—Lost Pages Of Indian Cricket
By Boria Majumdar
Yoda Press Pages: 170; Rs 395
Any cricket enthusiast is familiar with the many nuances of the game. For example, cricket’s been used as a diplomatic tool—when Australia and England refused to play in Zimbabwe during the last World Cup and the way the Indo-Pak series was billed as a "friendship" one. It’s a game where the captain’s ego matters—Graham Gooch ended David Gower’s career; Sunny Gavaskar did the same with Indian players like Dilip Doshi. Besides, jealousy plagues most teams—the bitter tensions between Kapil Dev and Gavaskar, or that between many Pakistani players. Most importantly, we’ve lost faith in the game due to allegations of match-fixing and betting. But, as Boria Majumdar’s book reveals, this is not new. Indian cricket’s been afflicted by similar issues for over a century. Tracing a dozen such events, many from the ’30s and ’40s, he takes the reader down a seedy memory lane.

Although the writing is far from sparkling, doesn’t adequately explore the characters involved, and is biased towards the well-known (like Lala Amarnath and C.K. Nayudu), it does provide some insights. Did you know, for instance, that Amarnath was offered Rs 10,000—a princely sum in 1935—to ensure that Freelooters won the prestigious Moin-ud-Dowla Cup finals? (He refused, going on to score a century). Or that J.B. Khot, captain of the Dadar Parsee Colony Sports Club, was suspended for "selling a match" during the Kanga League in 1948? Some of us would know that Amarnath was sent back during the Indian team’s tour of England in 1936 or that Nayudu was excluded from the team in 1937. But we may not know the machinations, egos and jealousies that led to these episodes. And how many are aware that "had (the famous) Ranjitsinhji not played English games (including cricket), he would have never become an Indian prince". So, if you’re a cricket buff who doesn’t mind the game’s unsavoury aspects, this is the book to read.

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