Cricket and BeyondMartin Chandler |
Author: Ezekiel, Gulu
Publisher: Ocean Publishing
Rating: 4 stars
Gulu Ezekiel has been writing professionally for almost 30 years. He has written a number of cricket books over that time, including biographies of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni. In addition to his books many articles written by him have appeared in a variety of more ephemeral publications and Cricket and Beyond represents his personal selection of 40 of those pieces.
The majority of the writing is about cricket that Ezekiel has witnessed, and about the issues that have faced the game over the last three decades. At the beginning of the era there are some valuable perspectives on the questions of apartheid and the participation of South Africans, both as individuals and a nation, in International sport. Latterly the explosion of interest in 20/20 cricket and the IPL faces a searching examination. Ezekiel is outspoken in his criticism of the new format and the way it is administered and an extract from the book, that he has kindly allowed us to reproduce as a feature, amply demonstrates the strength of his feelings about a subject described by Bishan Bedi in his foreword as “a cancer in the game”.
The work of writers from the sub-continent is, in this internet age, much more widely available than in the past but, in England at least, still not as widely published in book form as I would like, and the always perceptive views expressed by Ezekiel about the various aspects of the game that he looks at make a refreshing change. That said I have to say that having read Cricket and Beyond in its entirety my favourite pieces are, without exception, those that do not deal with cricket at all. It is their presence in the collection that presumably give rise to the book’s title.
The story of Venugopal Chandrasekhar, a world class table tennis player, whose life and career were left in tatters by the actions of a negligent surgeon, is a particularly poignant tale, and one which was completely new to me. In a similar vein the first chapter of the book is a record of an interview with aging tennis legend TK Ramanathan – Ezekiel’s commentary to the piece says it all; This was and remains the most difficult interview I ever conducted. It was painful to see one of the legends of Indian sport in such poor condition… .
The Olympic Games, and in particular the participation of Indian competitors, is clearly another passion of Ezekiel’s and I learned here of the accomplishments of athletes Milkha Singh and Norman Pritchard, as well others whose names were equally unfamiliar to me. I did know of India’s prowess on the hockey field, although only the basics, but had no idea they had reached the quarter finals of the soccer competition in Melbourne in 1956. Moving away from grass I also thoroughly enjoyed reading about chess player Viswanathan Anand and F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan.
All in all Cricket and Beyond is certainly one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year and I have no hesitation in recommending it. It may be that those who live outside the sub-continent will encounter difficulties sourcing the book, in which case Gulu himself will be happy to assist – his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.