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Book Review

Folklores to facts: A curious journey of Indian cricket

Jaydeep Basu



Myth-busting Book

New Delhi: Achievers and role models are integral part of the sporting arena – no sport can progress without them. While their larger than life appearances and superman status’ take the game to a greater height, it also ceaselessly builds a myth around them that becomes difficult to counter.

Stories on them, however, unbelievable they are in nature, are discussed and narrated for generations with such conviction that the thin line between fact and fiction, over the years, gets easily blurred.

To put it straightaway, seasoned cricket writer Gulu Ezekiel has done a commendable job in handling this rather difficult subject in his new book, Myth-Busting: Indian Cricket, Behind the Headlines.

In doing so, he has spared none: it includes former cricketers, who make tall claims and cricket writers, who inadvertently believe and collaborate popular myths without checking the facts.

Ezekiel, however, hasn’t blamed anyone in the process. All he has done is to simply put the facts on the table with his judicious research and ability to communicate in a highly-readable language.

In 11 chapters, the writer has dealt with several topics – on the tied Test match in Chennai in 1986, on Sunil Gavaskar’s impulsive decision to walk out against Australia in 1981 that nearly made India forfeit the Test match, on Kapil Dev’s still talked-about 175 runs against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup and many others.

Readers with an eye and interest in cricket history will, however, immensely enjoy the chapter on Vinoo Mankad and how he is being linked to a dismissal in India’s 1947-48 tour of Australia that has since then earned the nickname of “Mankading” in cricket history.

We all know that to term that particular style of dismissal as “Mankading” is not very complimentary towards one of India’s greatest all-rounders.

Ezekiel has painstakingly explained that what Mankad did in twice running out opener Bill Brown when the batsman on the non-striker’s end was way out of his crease before the delivery of the ball was actually hailed as a “sporting act” by many in Australia at that time.

It was no cunning act on part of Mankad as believed these days. Mankad did it after issuing a proper warning to the batsman. After his warning fell in deaf ears of the over-enthusiastic batsman, the Indian star simply ran him out.

It first happened in a tour match against an Australian XI in Sydney. Brown was warned by Mankad and the next time, he simply removed the bails.

According to the writer, the respectable “Cricketer” magazine in 1948 wrote: “The crowd realized the fairness of the bowler’s action and cheered him.” In fact, former Australian star Arthur Mailey felt Mankad was “over-generous.”

The Brown versus Mankad battle continued and in the third Test, Mankad sent Brown back in the same fashion though he didn’t issue a warning this time. It did create some heated discussion as no one had ever been dismissed this way in a Test match before, but Ezekiel has quoted several reports that proves a wide range of people in Australian cricket had actually strongly supported Mankad.

Currently, those who are up in arms against Ravichandran Ashwin for a similar act, are advised to read this book.

One more chapter that stands out in the book is on Kapil Dev’s historic 175 against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup at Tunbridge Wells. While it is popularly believed that no video recording of the great innings is available because of a strike called by the BBC staff, this book has busted this myth.

No crew member was available to record the match simply because the BBC didn’t consider the match important enough to send their cameramen.  Instead they covered two other matches scheduled for the day – West Indies versus Australia and England versus Pakistan.

Kapil played one of the greatest knocks in World Cup history, but there was no one to record how history was created.

The writer also had a dig at those, who, in later days, preferred to write “an eyewitness account” of how Kapil Dev took an incredible catch in the final to send back a rampaging Vivian Richards to the pavilion and pave the way for an Indian victory.

Doordarshan on that day could not telecast nearly an hour of the final because of some technical reasons and unfortunately though, the great Kapil act happened during this “blackout” period.

How some cricket writers sitting in India could watch that catch remains a question in the minds of cricket fans.

There are several other issues the book has dealt with will keep the readers happy.

Though some may not feel comfortable with the writer questioning the logic behind naming the country’s national championship as the Ranji Trophy. Ezekiel has done extensive research to prove that great Ranjitsinhji had nothing for the promotion of Indian cricket.

However, it can’t be denied that when the Ranji Trophy started in 1934, a year after Ranjitsinhji’s death, there was not one Indian cricketer around, who could come anywhere near the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar both in status and achievement.

As we discussed earlier, the game doesn’t progress without heroes and role models – not all myths that need to be busted.

Myth-Busting: Indian Cricket, Behind the Headlines by Gulu Ezekiel. Published by Rupa. Price: Rs. 295/-.

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