August 11, 2020
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The Cricket Trail

A unique but timely adventure

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The Cricket Trail
The Passionate Soul Of Subcontinental Cricket
By Emma Levine
Penguin Rs:125; Pages: 193
FOR Levine, India is a place to indulge her love for cricket. Also the focal point to document the subcontinent's passion for the game. From the box-cricket underarm tennis-ball night tournament hosted by the Om Shiva Sai Sports Club in Bombay to gali cricket in Old Delhi and the highest cricket ground in the world at Chail, Levine has seen and photographed it all. She has also developed her own concept of nirvana along the way, something she chiselled out of witnessing a Royal Thomian cricket match in Sri Lanka—an annual three-day school match held in a highly festive atmosphere where spectator passion for alcohol and revelry vies closely with their liking for late cuts to third man.

She has also not restricted the scope of material by confining herself to so-called accessible places. She wriggled and interviewed her way past LTTE functionaries to war-torn Jaffna where, for boys seeking an escape from the 12-year-long strife, cricket remains one of the few pleasures.

Also undeterred by Karachi businessmen, who thought the question ridiculous, she was determined to find out whether the Pathans of Peshawar—originally refugees from Afghanistan—had taken to cricket. Well, the answer's surprising. Not only have they taken to it but far from being a minority interest it was something that the players revelled in even in their courtyards and at cemeteries. To quote: "In one match, the headstone acted as stumps, and the wicketkeeper constantly had to go leaping over graves to retrieve the ball."

Perhaps an assignment of this kind wouldn't have been possible except for the author's own sharpened sense of adventure, of which she has plenty. Her first taste of it was in the miners' riots in Bucharest in 1991 when she was caught in the police firing against the rioters.

But the one question which bothered Emma—the reason why countries of the subcontinent remain obsessed with cricket—and one she delved into wherever she travelled, remains largely unanswered.

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