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‘Indian Innings: The Journey of Indian Cricket from 1947’ review: Perspectives on the willow game

Cricket lends itself to the apt turn of phrase, droll humour, simmering anger and the realisation that it will throw up surprises. It offers its chroniclers enough drama to chew on and for them to mull about styles to adopt — elegant prose, poetic flourishes, may be some rhetoric and also weave in those threads that bind the willow game with life.

It is no surprise that the very best of cricket writing moves into the realm of literature. In the anthology Indian Innings: The Journey of Indian Cricket from 1947, veteran sports writer Ayaz Memon curates some of the finest pieces that tell the remarkable tale that Indian cricket has largely been.

Roots of a romance

Ayaz starts with the roots of his cricketing romance, a bond forged by listening to radio commentary and the yellow brick as the Wisden Almanack, is fondly referred to, which was often gifted to him by his father. He then lets the other members of his tribe shed light on seminal moments in Indian cricket by carrying their diverse articles and at the end of every piece, he adds a footnote named AYAZSpeak, which gives his perspective.

There have been anthologies before and one that springs to mind is The Picador Book of Cricket edited by Ramachandra Guha, published in 2001. That tome had a broader sweep and the writers cut across the cricket-playing globe. Two decades later, Ayaz prefers to keep his gaze closer home and sheds light on significant moments and the larger-than-life players who shaped Indian cricket after the yoke of colonialism was shed in 1947.

What you get is a veritable who’s who of cricket writing from within our desi shores and it features both seasoned journalists and others, who have alternative calling cards in life. For the nostalgically inclined, there is K.N. Prabhu, Rajan Bala and R. Mohan to name a few, with the last-named still putting pen to paper through Deccan Chronicle. The other significant writers featured through their reports, profiles and analysis are Vijay Lokapally, Suresh Menon, R. Kaushik, Clayton Murzello, Sandeep Dwivedi, Rohit Brijnath, Sharda Ugra, Harsha Bhogle, Shashi Tharoor, Guha, Makarand Waingankar, Mukul Kesavan, Pradeep Magazine, Prem Panicker, Sambit Bal, Anand Vasu, Sriram Veera, Sanjjeev K. Samyal, Bharat Sundaresan, Rahul Bhattacharya and many more.

At ‘volatile’ Eden

You also get to read a Mudar Patherya, who moved on from tracking sport to keeping an eye on the financial markets. “India is the most emotional country in the world. Kolkata is its most temperamental city. And the Eden Gardens its most volatile showpiece,” he writes. This book has many such lines from a huge array of writers and it also has space for the diligent reporter, who lets the facts speak more than any evident flair.

But again this is a subjective culling of articles and some miss out be it a Sidharth Monga, an Ajay Shankar or a few others. And it is not just about the regulars in journalism, cricketers too have penned their thoughts including Bishan Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar and Anil Kumble. This is a book which can be read based on what segments of Indian cricket attract you or yield to the lure of a familiar byline or sporting memory.

Indian Innings: The Journey of Indian Cricket from 1947; Edited by Ayaz Memon, Westland Sport, ₹899.

vijayakumar.kc@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 11:43:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/indian-innings-the-journey-of-indian-cricket-from-1947-review-perspectives-on-the-willow-game/article37697204.ece

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