Cricket through its expansive staging with even its shortest version, the T20s, spilling over three hours, lends itself to anecdotes, statistics and trivia. Authors Abhishek Mukherjee and Joy Bhattacharjya, like in a Bengali adda fortified with khullad chai, have attempted to capture the mind-boggling range of cricketing tales specific to the Indian milieu.
The book titled, The Great Indian Cricket Circus, reveals various facets of the game, be it within the turf or off the field with frenetic dips into history, anthropology and the overall context that often define the willow game. In one of his posts on X (formerly Twitter), Joy tagged Shashi Tharoor and admitted that the book’s moniker was inspired by the latter’s classic, The Great Indian Novel.
The synergy perhaps ends with the title as Tharoor’s was a work of delightful fiction that blended Indian political history with a retelling of the Mahabharata. Meanwhile, Joy and Abhishek’s book doesn’t take any poetic licence and remains hinged on facts that could be either number-crunching, unheard of incidents or events about which most of us may at best may have a tenuous knowledge.
A treat awaits
In his foreword, R. Ashwin highlights how cricket and the Indian life are enmeshed together with even book-cricket being a part of our collective evolution. Interestingly, he pens these lines: “Start with a first chapter like a Test opener, or just jump to any topic that strikes your fancy – either way, you are in for a treat.” The spin legend’s summation is apt as this is a tome, which you could either go the systemic one-page-after-another route or a random page could be opened like for instance 164 and the reader would stumble on Dilip Vengsarkar’s nickname ‘Colonel’, which the former India captain was never comfortable with, a reality that the authors reiterate too.
The writers have made it easy by collating trivia into diverse chapters that are thematically organised. The way Indian cricket seeps into movies, literature, myths and nostalgia’s alcoves are all dug into with the gusto of a quiz-master, which Joy largely is. As for the readers, some incidents may be well known like Virat Kohli, despite losing his father, turning up for a key Ranji Trophy game while the BBC’s act of not televising Kapil Dev’s unbeaten 175 against Zimbabwe during the 1983 World Cup may still remain a mystery. And for some clarity on the last bit, dive into this book.
A nerd’s delight
This writing effort isn’t essentially about lyrical prose but it is entirely based on a flurry of customised information that makes the reader think and perhaps wonder about the tapestry that is Indian cricket. Within the template of chapters and nuggets, the authors attempt to give a sense of what constitutes the spine of Indian cricket, with all the pointers and some bling. The cricket-nerd keen to know about how many engineers became Indian cricketers, or the historically-inclined fan itching to know about player-transfers at the time of partition in 1947, and others with varied quests, can all find something appropriate to satisfy their curiosity.
Additionally, a peep into various players and their softer traits are also on display like how “Dravid gifted two bats, one for him (Tamim), the other for Mushfiqur Rahim,” and this after India suffered a terrible defeat against Bangladesh that saw the Men in Blue crash out of the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. Now with the latest World Cup upon us, Joy and Abhishek have tossed one up, hoping that the eager fan would reach forward to this book.
- The reviewer is the Sports Editor of The Hindu.
Check out the book on Amazon