Inside cricket
Aditya Sharma

A Maidan View
by Mihir Bose. Penguin.
Pages 372. Rs 295.

A Maidan ViewThis book defies classification. Broadly speaking, it can be categorised as ‘the history of Indian cricket’. However, once you start perusing the volume, it branches off in different directions. Beginning with the chronological facts of cricket, the book unfolds several significant historical events of 19th and 20th century British India. It is against the backdrop of Sepoy Mutiny, Civil Disobedience Movement, Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the affairs of princely states that the author embarks on describing the relevant incidents that led to the development of cricket in India.

During the pre-Partition days, cricket got patronisation from the princely states, which found it an effective tool to keep their British masters in good humour. And after India achieved Independence, it was Nehru’s seminal decision to join the Commonwealth nations that gave an impetus to the game. Had Nehru made a different choice, football and not cricket might have been the most popular sport in the country. In the 60s and 70s, for the first time in the history of Indian cricket, the game started getting sustenance from companies like Nirlon and Mafatlal. Later the State Bank of India too joined the fray, but after the nationalisation of the bank in 1971, it washed its hand of the game. However, there was rapid industrialisation in the country and new companies sprang up across the country. Many of these companies discovered cricket an effective medium to advertise their products. Since then there has been no looking back, and cricket has become such a rage that it is often referred as the religion of the country.

The range of perspectives the book provides the readers on various subjects is truly amazing. Perspectives which are not only unorthodox, but also remarkably original through which we discover about cricket and other facets of Indian life. In fact, the author goes as far as to dissect the psychology of Indians with uncanny precision. In the later chapters, Mihir Bose also discusses about the hold of Bombay on Indian cricket, about Ranji—the ruler of Nawanagar whose cricketing prowess brought India great laurels, about Sunil Gavaskar and Nawab Pataudi, and about how cricket has affected India-Pakistan relations.

Commenting on the nature of Indian cricket, the author brings to light one of the great ironies in Indian cricket. He remarks that while the matches played against other countries hog the entire limelight, Ranji matches are relegated to small-box news item. So much so that even a match between Yorkshire and Sussex gets ample coverage in Indian newspapers, while a match between Punjab and Assam fails to get adequate reporting.

Another lamentable fact about Indian cricket is that it has concentrated itself in urban areas with a negligible base in rural belts. In England, the position is otherwise. In an interesting chapters on the art of fast bowling, Mihir laments about the lack of fast bowlers India produced. After Amar Singh And Nissar (the first genuine pair of fast bowler who represented India in 1932 against England taking 56 wickets out of 81 wickets that fell), there was a draught of fast bowlers till the next 40 years until the arrival of Kapil Dev in the late 70s. The author cites various factors for the debacle and one of them whether it is due to "non-consumption of beef" that causes lack of aggression among the Indians!

The last two chapters sum up the present state of cricket in India and abroad. They describe how cricket has become a money minting sport after the arrival of satellite television and how cricketers like Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dhoni among others have emerged as demi-gods. There are other subjects such as match-fixing, the spectacular chase 326 runs by Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif in the Net-West series in July 2002, the Ganguly-Chappel mud slinging and other contemporary issues relating to Indian cricket.