Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Book Review: You Must Like Cricket?

Saumya Bhattacharya has stolen this book idea from us. You Must Like Cricket? is a book many cricket fans would have loved writing, we who belong to that section of the population whose “minds the day after a game… are like photocopy machines gone berserk, spewing out identical images over and over again.” The sub-title, Memoirs of an Indian Cricket Fan, is like the scorecard of a game, the dry facts demonstrating the reality of what the effort is about.

A quick breezy effort, You Must Like is a chronicle of author Soumya Bhattacharya’s life, seen through the lens of the key cricket matches he has either followed on the radio, watched in person or covered as part of his media job. An unusual approach, but not one that would disappoint you, not if you are a diehard cricket fan from India, or may be even from any other cricketing nation.

If you are cricket fan, you are unlikely to be a soccer fan. And if you are a fan of Sachin Tendulkar, then David Beckham is unlikely to mean a great deal to you. Therefore, you are bound to exult when Saumya asserts that “unlike David Beckham – perhaps the one sports star with a similar global media profile – Sachin makes the news only for his cricket.”

You Must Like covers a gamut of interesting incidents and matches, most of them the popular ones, like the Golden Jubilee test of 1980, the 1983 World Cup, Anil Kumble’s 6 for 12 in the Hero Cup final (and Sachin’s heroics in the semi-finals), VVS Laxman’s test of 2001 (the year the author’s daughter is born)… So a normal cricket follower from India should be able to relate with the book quite easily. There is the odd reference to happenings which can only be recollected by (and be of interest to) the cricket-mad fan – incidents like Alvin Kallicharan dropping his trousers on the cricket field at the Eden Gardens in 1979 and Chetan Sharma’s lone century in one-day internationals at Kanpur against England in 1989 – which would perhaps excite the more crazy of us. The equivalent of the changes of pace and other variations that punctuate a good spell of disciplined bowling. And they add credence to the author’s claim to cricket craziness. A claim a few million of us can make, just in India.

The odd inaccuracy, when the author recounts the great 325 chase at Lord’s and mentions that the winning hit was a boundary from Kaif, which in reality was an overthrow off a Zaheer Khan defensive push, is galling. Especially considering this comes right in the initial pages of the book. Thankfully, it turned out to be a one-off mistake. The other little irritation is when the author becomes a little too glib and philosophical with statements like “Indians need cricket to remain an exception. We can’t allow the players to slip – it would be too much of a worth to our sense of self-worth.”

Well, as with a good cricket match, the odd mis-hits and bad balls can be forgotten. The real strokes and wickets of this book are sumptuous and worth savouring.

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