One of the most underrated aspects behind the popularity of the Indian Cricket is the literature that drives it. From the days of MAK Pataudi to Virat Kohli, it has been a rich one, even though the English aficionados will disagree. Here we dive deep into some of the best books on Indian cricket.
A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport by Ramachandra Guha
When we see cricket as a completely segregated entity, we tend to ignore the paraphernalia that drives it. Be it the socio-political situation or the societal approach that makes it a spectacle that it is. Since India played its first Test match back in 1932 to the last white-wash in New Zealand in 2020, there have been a lot of interludes that define the generation. “A Corner of a Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport” by Gandhian historian Ramachandra Guha is an approach to colonial and post-colonial Indian history and how it became a predominant Indian obsession. From the picture of a group of Himalayan villagers playing the game in a rocky valley with a bat and stumps carved straight from a nearby tree to India conquering the 1983 World Cup, the book gives a perspective on how cricket became the phlegmatic definition of an Indian entity. The book draws a parallel with independent India’s self-esteem and philosophy through their performances on the cricket field. Pick this book and go on a voyage of understanding the parallel through Guha’s eyes.
Cricket Country: The Untold History of the First All India Team by Prashant Kidambi
Edmund Blunden’s 1944 book, Cricket Country, was an ode to England and his Englishness while Prashant Kidambi, Associate Professor in Colonial Urban History at the University of Leicester, borrowed the title to give an odyssey of Indian cricket. 'Cricket Country: The Untold History of the First All-India Team' is an emphatically researched detailing of how the first representative Indian team for its tour of England in 1911 was formed. It has been a long and arduous journey from a team formed by the selectors of the English empire to play against their own team to the current team of nationalistic pride. The book bursts many myths of Indian cricket and how the great K.S. Ranjitsinhji, one of the most celebrated cricketers in the British empire, rejected requests to lead this Indian side. This was a fine account that would take you to the pre-independent time and how cricket was so different then. This, alongside Guha’s book, makes for fine literature in Indian cricket.
Driven - The Virat Kohli Story by Vijay Lokapally
There have been few journalists in India who have seen the highs and lows of Indian cricket as closely as Vijay Lokapally has. The former “The Hindu'' journalist followed Virat Kohli since he was a U15 cricketer in Delhi and charted his growth with some fine anecdotes from the people who have been an integral part of Kohli’s career. This book details the minute aspect of the Indian skipper’s career and how the winning mentality was instilled in him to become the most celebrated cricketer in the world at the moment. While every aspect of Virat Kohli’s career has been well documented online, Lokapally’s fantastic narrative tells us behind the scene stuff with so much of passion that it becomes a great account and memorabilia for ages. You can play the scenes while reading the book and understand what it takes to become Virat Kohli - an inspirational and aspirational human being by every means.
Imperfect by Sanjay Manjrekar
The current generation of cricket fans might have any opinion on Sanjay Manjrekar for his commentary - sometimes rightly so - but his autobiography, which came out in 2018, was one honest account of a player who promised so much. Manjrekar was a fine batsman of his time, scoring a Test century against the Windies line-up of Marshall, Ambrose, Bishop and Walsh and then scored another 569 runs in four Tests against Imran, Waqar, Wasim and Qadir in '94; two centuries (one a double), three fifties. But when he let his guard down to document his life, it came out, in my opinion, the most honest, no-holds-barred book of our time. He talked about his strained relationship with his father Vijay Manjrekar, one of the stalwarts of Indian cricket, and didn’t hold back in revealing his life’s personal vulnerabilities. He talked about the huge difference between senior players and the younger ones during his time in the Indian team with full amateurishness. It touched every aspect any Indian cricket fan would want to know and with fine detailing. If you can let your perception and ego away for a few hours, you will have a fine read at your hands.
Pundits from Pakistan by Rahul Bhattacharya
This is a personal favourite. Rahul Bhattacharya accounts one of the finest books on one of cricket’s most cherished and equally difficult stories - a book on India and Pakistan cricket. Voted as one of the Ten Best Cricket Books of all time in The Wisden Cricketer, it tells us the stories of India’s tour of Pakistan in 2004. Mike Marqusee summed it up in Wisden Asia Cricket that “Thankfully Bhattacharya does not suffer the tunnel vision that is the occupational curse of the press box. On the contrary, the strength of his book is the sophisticated sensibility he brings to the experience of the tour as a whole. For younger generations, it was an emphatic tearing down of stereotypes that had been fed to them, in their textbooks, their movies, their media." Every line of the story will take you on a voyage to perhaps the most scrutinised series in the history of cricket and the periphery that drove it. I seriously can’t fathom anyone else, with a different sense of sensibility would have pulled off a book like this. This is a gem for ages.