Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cricketing autobiographies and biographies

I'm one of those cricket nuts who can't get enough of the game... Even with all the cricket on TV, opportunities to watch cricket at the grounds, and playing cricket at home with my 4-year-old, I need more, more, more!

A great way to get that fix is to pick up a cricket book. There's a long history of great writing on cricket, by the likes of Neville Cardus, Jack Fingleton, John Arlott, Mihir Bose and so on. There are books on the history of the game, like the one by Mihir Bose on India's cricket history. There are books on specific series such as Fingleton's famous book on the Bodyline series, or Scyld Berry's "Cricketwallah" on England's 1981 tour to India. There are instruction manuals written by famous cricketers (like Don Bradman on the Art of Cricket, or Mike Brearly on the Art of Captaincy). There are books on cricketing cities, like Sandeep Bamzai's book on Bombay cricket called "Guts to Glory".

I generally devour anything I can find on cricket, but my favourite genre remains the (auto)biography. There's nothing like reading about famous matches in the words of those greats who helped make them memorable. And there's nothing like reading about the little on-tour / dressing-room incidents and accidents that reveal so much about the characters of our cricketing heroes.

Like many others of my generation in India, my initiation to cricketing autobiographies was via Sunil Gavaskar's "Sunny Days". It was written surprisingly early in his career, around 1975-76 if I remember correctly -- only 5 years since his debut. But it had me hooked. Apart from all the on- and off-field incidents that we never saw (no TV coverage), it was great to read about his early years, his participation in University cricket and other local tournaments, etc. Of course I went on to read all his subsequent books - Idols, Runs 'n Ruins and One-day Wonders. He stopped publishing in the book form after One-day Wonders, unfortunately, although he regularly writes columns in newspapers, and is of course often seen and heard on TV as a commentator. Somehow it's not the same as reading an autobiography.

Since then, I've been picking up autobiographies wherever and whenever I could. David Gower's autobiography was one of the best reads, very well written. Geoff Boycott's autobiography is, like his commentary on TV, blunt and entertaining. I also enjoyed the dreaded West Indian fast bowlers Michael Holding ("Whispering Death") and Malcolm Marshall ("Marshall Arts") revealing their art and psyche. The very contrasting Erapalli Prasanna ("One More Over") and Sandeep Patil ("Sandy Storm") are wonderful to read, not necessarily because of the quality of the writing, but because they were such giant-sized childhood heroes to me. Another childhood hero Kapil Dev was however a bit disappointing when it came to his writing (or ghost-writing).

On a somewhat different note, I remember reading "The Burning Finger", the memoirs of an Indian Test umpire (M.V. Gothoskar, if I remember correctly). Again, great to read about the game from an umpire's perspective. Similarly, a popular radio and TV commentator of the 1970s and 1980s, Fredun DeVitre has written a very entertaining book called "Willow Tales", a collection of anecdotes contributed by several cricketers.

I'm sure I'm forgetting several other biographies and autobiographies that I've read over the years. Which ones are your favourites? Do leave a comment to recommend a good cricketing book.

1 comment:

Priya Kumari said...

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