A Book Review: A Gentleman’s Game – Reflections on Cricket History

By Kersi Meher-Homji

A Gentleman’s Game – Reflections on Cricket History by Anindya Dutta, 142 pages, illustrated.

The Kindle e-book is available on Amazon Australia at A$4.49. The link to the book is Amazon Australia https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0725VZJFQ  The Paperback is available on Amazon US at US$5.99.

I grew up in an era when cricket was a noble game. But lately it has tended to become a get-rich club with cricketers auctioned for money in IPL and BBL and currently Australian cricketers threatening strike action for the forthcoming Ashes series if not paid more. Not to mention bribery and match-fixing scandals in the last few decades.

So I picked up a relatively unknown writer’s book A Gentleman’s Game with disbelief and sceptism. And I was pleasantly surprised. After reading it my faith in the nobility of cricket was restored as the author Anindya Dutta has delved in the rich heritage of cricket without covering up the dark spots.

Author Anindya Dutta, banker by profession, cricket writer by passion.

The author has gone a long way to restore our love and respect for the game when in the past anything unfair or corrupt was called, “it’s not cricket.”

These days, cricket literature has become a retired Test cricketer’s domain. Most best-sellers are either autobiographies or biographies of Test greats. Over ninety percent of television commentators are former Test players.

I enjoyed reading this well-illustrated publication. Each Chapter starts with a famous quote.

The first Chapter is on “Ranjitsinhji, the Maharaja of Elegance and of Nawanagar”. After reading Anindya’s book I learnt many things about Ranji I did not know. Some of it was not pleasant. In the beginning of his career there was a racist article on him written by Sir Home Gordon who called him “a dirty black”. And did you know Ranji faced bankruptcy and earlier on he had no right to call himself a Prince?

The Chapter on Keith Miller – the supreme all-round cricket icon, a war hero, a classical music aficionado and a likeable character – starts with his immortal quote: “Pressure? There is no pressure in Test cricket. Real pressure is when you are flying a Mosquito with a Messerschmitt up your arse.” Apart from his heroics on the cricket field author Anindya depicts Miller’s courage and gallantry during World War II.

Being a quirky cricket writer myself I found Chapters on fattest and tallest cricketers fascinating. The research on bulky cricketers is aptly titled “Have Fat, Can Bat: Cricketers who were their weight in gold.”

The book is not just about achievements. It details failures too: the worst declarations in history and on dropped catches by butterfingers. Also the mighty West Indies lost a match to Ireland.

I found the Chapter “A Tale of Two Test Debuts” nostalgic as I was present at the Sydney Cricket Ground when India’s Subroto Banerjee  and Australia’s Shane Warne had made their Test debuts in January 1992. Medium-pacer Banerjee captured 3 for 47 including the scalps of Geoff Marsh, Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh. In contrast Warne had a forgettable debut, being smashed all over the park by Ravi Shastri and Sachin Tendulkar as he finished with 1 for 150.

Warne became a Test legend with 708 wickets at 25.41 in 145 Tests. For Banerjee it was his Test debut and swan song as he was never selected in a Test again.

To quote author Anindya Dutta, “Bizarrely, the man who has bowled so well in the first innings, Subroto Banerjee, does not get to bowl a single ball in the second innings. In fact, he never gets to bowl another ball in Test cricket, and is destined to be forever referred to in cricketing history as a one-Test wonder.” Cricket cruel cricket!

The cover of the book carries autographs of Don Bradman’s invincible Australian team to England in 1948.

Written in an interesting and easy-to-read style A Gentleman’s Game – Reflections on Cricket History shows many aspects of cricket; the good, the bad, the gallant and the paradoxical. This is Anindya Dutta’s first book. I can safely predict that it will not be his last.

 

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