I’ve been reading this trio of books on Indian cricket. Or maybe I should say the Indian history of cricket. I’m reading somewhat haphazardly, but I have to say that the character of cricket in India is fascinating. I’ll update the blog with a separate entry for some of these books when I am done reading, but here’s a brief description of each.
Men in White by Mukul Kesavan is Kesavan’s collection of personal impressions about cricket. It’s not historical. For me this book wasn’t so much brilliant or informative as a roadmap. There are various interesting things mentioned, but too much of it is either familiar and well-known or esoteric and specific to Kesavan’s interests. However, the book did mention things which I wasn’t quite aware of, and recommended Ramachandra Guha’s history.
The Magic of Indian Cricket by Mihir Bose is not a history of cricket in India. This book is truly magical. I find it hard to classify it; it jumps all over the place and touches upon topics as diverse as the origin of the English passion for sport, the British hatred for the Hindu, the mutiny of 1857, Jawaharlal Nehru’s role in the exclusion of South Africa from the Commonwealth, Greek social norms concerning the olympics and why the Indian media love to hate Sunil Gavaskar. Every paragraph is an excursion into something interesting an novel. Cricket is woven into this throughout, but the book isn’t exactly about cricket. I’ve walked on the Calcutta Maidan many, many times, but only after reading this book do I realize its sheer eminence in the colonial, political, religious and sporting history of India.
A Corner of a Foreign Field by Ramachandra Guha is the most erudite chronicle in this trio. It’s a true history, but thankfully not as dry as some of Guha’s other books, such as his book on Verrier Elwin. I’m not very far into it, but it’s a fascinating look into the development of cricket in India, starting with the Parsees who wanted to play on the Maidan in Bombay.