A Lifelong Love Affair with The Gentleman’s Game

Ramachandra Guha, in his latest book The Commonwealth of Cricket, describes cricket as “the Most Subtle and Sophisticated Game Known to Humankind”. And, as a cricket enthusiast, I can’t agree more to it. Having played club cricket for quite some time, I know how the gentleman’s game connects to you. It provides you with the pleasure that nothing else can match. Now that I have stopped playing the game, Guha’s book assisted me in cherishing the memories of those wonderful days. Coming back to the book, this memoir comes from a political historian who has had deep connections with this game. The book starts by Guha narrating his childhood memories of the game that he played or watched in the beautiful district town of Dehradun in Uttar Pradesh (now, the capital of Uttarakhand). He tells about the magnificent grounds like that of the Indian Military Academy, the Forest Research Institute, and Indian Forest college. Playing cricket there was like, as the title of the chapter suggests, playing in paradise. As he writes,

“I have been to Lord’s and the Adelaide Oval, and to the Parks at Oxford…. No town in Australia or England or South Africa has so many lovely sporting fields as Dehradun.”

Coincidentally, my home state is the same as Guha’s so I have seen what he is talking about. As the book moves forward, a variety of cricketing experience hits the reader: From handshakes with the likes of Bishan Singh Bedi and Vijay Samuel Hazare to meeting a couple, in the stands of Firoz Shah Kotla, which went on to become media entrepreneurs, namely Prannoy and Radhika Roy. I was fascinated by his writing as well. How would you describe Clive Lloyd’s back-foot drive to someone who has no idea about this legendary player? Guha writes,

“The ball traced a flaming path over the turf, the stalks of grass bowing their heads, crushed, as the missile sped from the giant’s three-pound mace to the boundary.”

Simply amazing (the writing as well as Lloyd’s batting).

He then goes on to cover the entire length of the book talking about Ranji Trophy and his love for Karnataka’s team, his own playing days at the St. Stephen’s College, Sachin and other great players from around the globe, how he developed an interest for reading the game, and much more. But, the most surprising of all was his ‘accidental’ term as a cricket administrator.

In the year 2017, the Supreme Court announced the names to be included in the Committee of Administrators (CoA) which was formed to implement the reforms suggested by the Lodha Committee. One of the names was of Guha himself. But, his time as a member of the CoA didn’t go down well. Cricket administration in India is uglier than Indian politics, he remarked in a later interview. The BCCI has been a monopoly of “old-guards” for years now, many of whom have had a long history of corruption, crimes, and conflict of interests. CoA was given the task to clean up the entire mess but it failed. And Guha was the first one to resign from the committee. He has explained in great lengths about the whole incident in the book. He didn’t fear in voicing his opinions on the superstar culture that prevails in the cricketing world. His resignation exposed the cricketing fraternity and the many conflict of interest cases against some great names. But sadly, his resignation did no good to the BCCI and the cricketing society of India as the “old-guard” has returned to govern the game while the CoA has been scrapped.

The image that says it all.

Source – Indian Express

The book is also filled with many all time XIs made by the cricket enthusiast Ramachandra Guha. He has given his All time India XI, All time Indo-Pak XI, and all time XI of the players he has done handshakes with. So, I would conclude this blog by writing my All Time India XI. It goes something like this:

  1. Virendra Sehwag
  2. Sunil Gavaskar
  3. Rahul Dravid
  4. Sachin Tendulkar
  5. Virat Kohli
  6. Syed Kirmani/ MS Dhoni (former for the test and the latter for ODIs)
  7. Kapil Dev (Captain)
  8. Anil Kumble
  9. Ravichandran Ashwin/ Erapalli Prasanna (too difficult to choose one)
  10. Zaheer Khan
  11. Jasprit Bumrah

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