It is a sport that can constrict time or seemingly stretch those minutes. Cricket can be a series of thrilling microseconds, evident in Twenty20s, and it also has long pauses between deliveries or overs, especially in Tests. To unwind a bit during their playing days, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman at slips would discuss their kids or the carpentry work in their new homes before snapping back to attention when the bowler commenced his run-up. Cricket offered such indulgences.
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The willow game lends itself to drama and often throws up rippling performances. In his book Courage, Conviction, Controversy and Cricket, veteran sports writer Vedam Jaishankar strings together an anthology of incidents that fit into the template of the tome’s nomenclature. In that sense this is a book you need not exactly read in a chronological way.
A random chapter that catches the eye could be delved into and Jaishankar covers a gamut of personalities through his direct style. Known to be opinionated and never one to hold back his punches, the author writes upfront: “Cricket, flush with incidents and personalities, is always an engrossing topic for discussion.”
He then reveals the different layers of this great sport starting with a chapter on Bodyline in which England’s Harold Larwood threatened life and limb in a bid to stymie the great Don Bradman, while England aimed at securing the Ashes. The book’s concluding passages deal with R. Ashwin’s penchant to effect a run-out while the non-striker unfairly sneaked out, and the resultant needless debates.
The book, though, isn’t entirely about stinkers like for instance Trevor Chappell’s under-arm bowling against New Zealand or the match-fixing crisis that sprung two decades ago. Jaishankar also holds a mirror to stirring deeds like former India captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi playing with just one eye; Anil Kumble bowling in the West Indies with a broken jaw or a Malcolm Marshall, despite a fractured hand, ambushing England. And as the pages recede, there are references to the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
A quibble or two
It is a book that stays the course of its writer’s ambition: to reflect on cricket’s many facets. May be some paragraphs could have been edited tighter and perhaps Jaishankar could have given credit to Anand Vasu, who broke the story about Paddy Upton’s practical note on sex and cricketers. Anand filed this copy for the Hindustan Times and Jaishankar mentions the publication but not the correspondent. Guess it is the author’s prerogative.
There is also a factual slip wherein former India opener Navjot Singh Sidhu recalls Sachin Tendulkar’s debut series in Pakistan in 1989 and there is his quote: “I thought, oh! only he (Tendulkar) and Kapil are left and after that Kumble…” Just that Kumble made his debut in 1990.
Yet, this a book that offers a wide gaze. Curious about the Greg Chappell-Sourav Ganguly spat or want to know about Yuvraj Singh’s battle with cancer? Pick this one up and read the specific chapter and Jaishankar, with his research, delivers.
Courage, Conviction, Controversy and Cricket; Vedam Jaishankar, Westland Sport, ₹699.