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Cricketing history of Karnataka

CASTING A SPELL — The Story of Karnataka Cricket: Vedam Jaishankar; UBS Publishers' Distributors Pvt. Ltd., 5, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 495.

IT IS strange that nobody has ever attempted to write a history of Karnataka cricket before Vedam Jaishankar. A State that boasts of having produced the most Test cricketers for the country, after Mumbai. Attempting to write history is hard work, especially so if it is a dynamic subject like cricket.

The author must have travelled across the vast State as well as the neighbouring ones to gather information from archives, manuscripts, articles and people. Obviously, he had the advantage that comes naturally to one who is writing the cricketing history of a State he had studied, played and spent most of his life there.

Early days

The book begins well with the past — the grounds, clubs and cricketers who played the game in the early days. Names like Jayaram and Medapa are some of the illustrious cricketers who are lost in passage of time.

Just as the reader begins to settle down quite comfortably with the history, he is presented with profiles of Test cricketers and some first-class cricketers. Ideally, this could have brought up the rear. Now, writing cricket history is one thing while analysing the game and its players is quite another. This is where the author gets into a sticky wicket. We are told G.R. Vishwanath was a great batsman, but Jaishankar fails to explain what was it that made the other Little Master so very special. Similarly with E.A.S. Prasanna. And B.S. Chandrasekar.


There were three cricketers whom the reviewer was curious to know about — V.M. Muddiah, Vijayakrishna and Sadanand Vishwanath. The essay on Muddiah makes interesting reading. The 75 year-old is growing organic mangoes in his lush estate near Yelahanka. Muddiah throws light on India's disastrous 1959 tour of England.

He talks about the politics and infighting in the team, and is very open about the Bombay bias. Vijayakrishna was a talented all-rounder. Those who have played him describe his left-arm spin bowling as "deceptive in the air, and has you thinking constantly." Vishwanath is quite a character. His quip to Syed Kirmani after hitching a ride in the latter's scooter is hilarious.

Triumphs and battles

The narrative continues from the 1940s. The chapter on Ranji Trophy triumphs is a delight to read. There is no love lost between the Karnataka and Mumbai players. Their battles were merciless and fought to the bitter end.

A full section deals with the rise of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), Bangalore's famous cricket clubs and cricket in the districts. Also is a chapter on Karnataka's umpires and cricketing families.

The author picks his all-time Karnataka XI. It is impossible to be objective in an exercise like this. Anil Kumble surprisingly does not find a place in the team. There are scores and records for the statistically-minded. It is an interesting book, written without much fuss.


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