The Miracle Makers

Published: 2023
Pages: 213
Author: Sundaresan, Bharat and Joshi, Gaurav
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: 3.5 stars

The tour book as a concept is finished, at least so far as current cricket is concerned, is a line I have peddled several times in reviews down the years. It is an observation I have never been given cause to doubt up until now, nor has anyone disagreed with me so strongly as to make a comment to that effect but, after reading The Miracle Makers, I realise that there is life in the old genre yet.

Bharat Sundaresan, biographer of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina’s ghostwriter on the excellent Believe has however produced something rather different from the sort of books that used to be churned out by the dozen, and were still de rigueur as recently as 2005.

The series that The Miracle Makers covers was, in its way, just as historic as that Ashes series of eighteen summers ago. The fact that India won a series in Australia for the first time in 2020/21 was enough in itself to make that assertion, but beyond that the cricket was remarkable, as of course was the state of the world.

Like all Englishmen and Australians who watched those five Test matches in 2005 the Indian and Australian supporters who sat through the 2020/21 series will need no reminding of the events that unfolded, but the neutrals who watched it might appreciate a reminder. The first Test saw the Indians crushed, not so much by their eight wicket defeat but by being dismissed for just 36 in their second innings.

Certainly here in England the news that after that defeat Captain Kohli was leaving to go back to India strongly suggested that a 4-0 hammering was going to follow. The appointment of Ajinkya Rahane as Kohli’s deputy struck me as a bad idea too, although I wasn’t then aware of the superb job Rahane had done when called upon to do the same for the decisive final Test between India and Australia in 2016/17, just one of the many things I am grateful to Sundaresan and and co-author Gaurav Joshi for explaining to me.

And then Rahane led from the front with a century and turned the tables on Australia in the second Test, and at one point in the third it looked like India might chase down 407 to win, although in the end they would have been happy enough with the draw. A draw is a result I suspect the Indians would have settled for once more in the fourth and deciding Test, particularly given that their entire first choice attack were amongst the ten ‘certain picks’, as Wisden described them, who through injury or absence were unavailable. In the event a fourth innings target of 329 proved well within the Indians’ capability and a historic victory followed.

A major feature of the series of course is that it was played behind closed doors, and the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic and the particularly vigilant stance of the Australian authorities made the series a particularly stressful one for all those directly involved, including the authors, who had their own problems all, thankfully, overcome.

What those who read The Miracle Makers do not really need is an account, however accurate and well written, of cricket matches they have already seen and can view again as often as they want to, and all in detailed close up, with slow motion replays and expert commentaries. Those sort of descriptions of the play were, in the genre’s heyday, the basis of almost all tour books.

For Sundaresan and Joshi therefore the focus is not necessarily on the play itself, but on what went on behind the scenes in the Indian camp. Having enjoyed access to the players, and as importantly head coach Ravi Shastri and bowling coach Bharat Arun, the authors are able to bring a very different perspective to bear.

So will we see a resurgence of the tour book? I have to say I doubt whether we will see too many, and although The Miracle Makers is a very good book I do not suppose it would have appeared in any form had the 2020/21 Border/Gavaskar Trophy gone the way so many assumed it would after that first Test. That we do have it though does at least show that the concept of a book about a cricket tour can be adapted for the internet age, so I hope we will see similar attempts in the future.

Is the book perfect? I assume authors and publisher must be happy with it, but I have to say that whilst I can see an argument as to why they are not necessary, I would still like to have seen some photographs and the scorecards of the Tests and the accompanying averages. But that minor gripe notwithstanding, I much enjoyed The Miracle Makers and reading more about a Test series that, of those that have not involved England, was certainly the one that I have taken the most interest in.

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