The Great Indian Cricket CircusMartin Chandler |
Author: Mukherjee, Abhishek and Bhattacharja, Joy
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Rating: 3.5 stars
There have not been many new books coming from India in recent months, but it is perhaps not surprising that the start of the 2023 Mens’ 50 over World Cup has seen several appear in a short space of time. The Great Indian Cricket Circus is one of them and whilst it is some way from being a substantial contribution to the literature of the game, it is certainly an entertaining miscellany.
The concept that the authors bring to this one is not new, but they have given the way it is presented a good deal of thought. The book is divided into 52 separate chapters, the titles of which themselves raise expectations of an interesting read, and the authors travel back and forth across the entire history of the game in order to find their material.
Some of the chapters are predictable, the best example of that being the one that introduces family relationships in Indian cricket. The obvious ones are all covered of course, the Nayudus, Mankads, Binnys and Pathans. There are one or two unexpected links. That between Ajay Jadeja and Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji was one that caught me unawares, as did one or two of the links through marriage. The authors make no claim to their lists being definitive, but I was still a little surprised not to see the name Tendulkar mentioned in that one.
A not dissimilar subject matter, and one of the book’s few darker moments, is that on sudden or unusual deaths. There will be few who open the book who will know nothing of the well known account of Cotah Ramaswamy, and the sad demise of Raman Lamba is a familiar story. On the other hand the reason for the passings of Baqa Jilani, Ladha Ramji, Rusi Modi and a number of others had previously passed me by, and give much food for thought.
Of the more unusual items there are chapters concerning Abrupt Halts and Unexpected Endings in Indian Cricket, Food and Indian Cricket and Indian Cricket in Fiction. I suppose that some of these stories will not come as a complete surprise to the book’s Indian readers, but there was very little in those that struck me as familiar.
The various entries are short and snappily written, often just a paragraph or two. But whilst none of the entries exceed a page in length, if it takes a few paragraphs to explain the story the authors do not shirk that. In particular the tales in the Curious Selections chapter are, understandably, a little lengthier than most, often having ‘political’ angles to explain.
This sort of book can be picked up and read for some time, perhaps during intervals and between innings, and is a pleasure to read in that way. But it also has the advantage of being the sort of thing that can be picked up and enjoyed during a briefer interlude, perhaps at the end of an over or waiting for a new batsman to arrive at the crease.
The usual problem with books of this kind is that the quality of the material is uneven, with the reader being left with the impression that the ‘good stuff’ has been padded out to enable the authors to meet the publisher’s requirements. There is nothing to skip where Mukherjee and Bhattacharja’ efforts are concerned however and I can manage but a solitary grumble, that being that within the book there are no more examples of the splendid caricatures that grace the front and rear covers.