Cricket World Cup – The Indian Challenge

Published: 2015
Pages: 203
Author: Ray, Ashis
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Rating: 3.5 stars

It’s amazing to know that Cricket Australia makes far more money from a four Test tour by India then a five Test ashes tour by England. It seems that the only aspect of cricket that India fans do not dominate are book sales, with the Indian cricket book publishing numbers well behind that of Australia and England.

Well even that last bastion of imperial dominance may change if more quality cricket books such as this offering by Ashis Ray are produced. After all you would only need a fraction of the 1.2 billion cricket fans to purchase a copy before you have a best seller, and this book certainly deserves that distinction.

Ray takes us through every match played by India in the World Cup and as to be expected he dedicates more space to the successful series of 1983 and 2011 than his country’s more disappointing campaigns. He also includes a preview of the 2015 World Cup. With that tournament up to the business end now Ray’s predictions are fairly accurate although he, like many, thought England would perform with less embarrassment.

The author’s unique writing style takes adjustment but once you are in tune with him it becomes rather mellifluous. His writing reminds one of the Australian cricket writer, R.S. Whitington. He shares the same habit as RSW of leaving his subject and travelling on tangents but, just like RSW, he always returns to his original theme. There are even a few classic one liners, although it is unclear whether they are always intentional, the best was the description of a catch by the never loved on the subcontinent Mike Gatting; as Gatting, who had placed himself on the midwicket boundary, accepted the catch with a smug look on his face.

What Ray does not do is hedge his bets. There are no ‘perhaps’, ‘may’, or ‘could’ – his opinions are shot straight from the hip and strike right between his quarry’s eyes. From the BCCI to Shane Warne and his diuretic Ray is not out to court friends and makes his feelings clear. Ray also shows a nice turn of phrase such as his summing up of sports psychologist Rudi Webster and his task in assisting Indian during their dismal 2007 World Cup as the caress of the whip, though, only works on thoroughbreds!

One pitfall which is sometimes prevalent in Indian cricket books, especially about Sachin Tendulkar, is the twisting of fact and statistics to support an authors’ supposition. To his credit Ray does not use any justification for India’s poor performances in some World Cups, and even when there are issues he simply tells it as it occurred. So there is no blaming Greg Chappell for the 2007 debacle or minimisation of Sunil Gavaskar and his infamous 36 off 174 balls against the hosts in England in 1975.

So we have a quality read about India and their involvement in the World Cup which should be read by all fans, and not just those from India and with just two hurdles left to get over and looking good it may be that Ray will need to produce a revised edition before the year is out.

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