- Captain Cool - The M.S. Dhoni Story, by Gulu Ezekiel
- The Men Within - A Cricketing Tale, by Harimohan Paruvu
Captain Cool is a very new book - published probably in the second half of this year. It might have the distinction of being the first biography of M.S. Dhoni in a full book form, but that's about the only distinction it can claim. Given that Dhoni's international career is still relatively young (he made his debut less than 4 years ago), one might say the book is somewhat premature. However, Dhoni is such a hot commodity in the cricketing world, especially in India, that we can't fault the author or the publisher for rushing out this book at this time. Remember "Sunny Days", Gavaskar's (first) autobiography, which was published in the mid-1970s when Gavaskar was only a few years into his career? That might've been accused of being premature too, but it was nevertheless a wonderful read, filled with the cricketer's personal experiences and reminiscences.
Captain Cool however is a disappointing piece of work, especially coming from a well-recognized name like Gulu Ezekiel. At 120-odd pages, it's also quite short, and left me wanting to know more about the man. It would appear that Dhoni himself has had little contribution to the book - most of what Gulu writes comes from press reports, magazines and online sources like CricInfo. As a result, the book reads like a match report focusing mostly on Dhoni's performances. Chapter after chapter covers individual matches, blandly giving the scores, and Dhoni's contributions in terms of runs scored, balls faced, boundaries hit... Sometimes Gulu adds a bit about the match situation, and how Dhoni contributed to turning things around for India, but it's all a bit repetitive. If that was all I wanted, I'd go look up the scorecards and match reports on CricInfo. It's only the first couple of chapters (barely 15 pages
or so) on Dhoni's early years that have any content that's not common knowledge. Dhoni himself is quite articulate, and I suspect we'll see an autobiography from him a few years hence... I'll be waiting for that.
The Men Within is very different. First of all it's fiction, a tale woven around a cricketing theme (and team). It's an interesting read, even if you know exactly how the story will end. It's the cricketing equivalent of the recent Hindi movies "Chak de India" (hockey) and "Goal" (football), or you might say, the modern-day equivalent of the cricketing movie "Lagaan". The author combines that storyline of an unlikely team shooting for an unlikely goal, with the "public school" setting of P.G. Wodehouse's early cricket stories (starring Mike, Psmith and others). And it makes ample use of cricket as a metaphor for life itself, imparting life's lessons to the school kids in the thinly-veiled guise of cricket coaching. The result is nevertheless quite enjoyable and even inspiring, especially if you're a school- or college-going kid. For those of my vintage as well, it will trigger pleasant memories. The book is well written, with some eye-catching turns of phrase popping up amidst the usual cricketing language, peppered with Hyderabadi lingo. It could've done with a bit less melodrama, especially that surrounding the coach himself, and the slightly exaggerated villany of one of the teachers. But it's a taut, enjoyable read and I'd recommend it unreservedly.