A nice little cameo

March 13, 2009

The title for the post is a little presumptuous considering that Aakash Chopra has plenty of time on his hands if he does decide to pursue the next innings of his life as an author. I was reading his “Beyond the Blues” and thoroughly enjoyed doing so for a variety of reasons, and not everything had to do just with the quality of his writing.

For a start, I will read anything that I can lay my hands on which has anything to do with cricket. And to be honest, being in India, outside of Cricinfo and the odd article here and there by Mukul Kesavan, Ram Guha, Rajan Bala or Suresh Menon there is nothing much to lay your hands on. Absence of choice has its own unintended benefits.

The book is a very honest, unpretentious recording of an Indian first class cricketer’s season on the road. It does help that the book is written by “Aakash Chopra” as opposed to “XYZ who turned out for Saurashtra”, as most cricket buffs will fondly recall the brief but effective partnership he forged with Sehwag on the memorable 2003 tour to Australia. In keeping with the title, which incidentally comes out as a nice play on “Beyond a Boundary”, Aakash has resolutely kept away from meandering into the glitzy world of international cricket. Very much like he left deliveries outside the off stump.

For a cricketer, who was dropped and subsequently overlooked inspite of having been one of the better players to pair up with Sehwag during that period, his references to incomprehensible selection policies are without any rancor or malice. Most laudably, he has avoided the temptation of making public the lurid politics which we all know envelopes Indian cricket. An insider’s disclosures of the political or scandalous variety and backroom machinations would have been lapped up by the public and a sure shot route for frenzied sales. The fact that he still harbours ambitions of making a comeback to the national team must have been at the back of his mind.

A daily recording of events that could have ended up being bland and repetitive has been made interesting by juxtaposing the same against similarities to life itself. This ability to think, reflect and analyse, a commendable trait in any human being, is even more valuable in sportspersons who find themselves in competitive and potentially explosive situations all the time. Coming out with a tome that captures what is essentially the daily grind of one’s living and sustain a reader’s interest, cricket fan or otherwise, is not very easily done and this is precisely what Aakash has managed to dowith a fair degree of felicity. Displaying a rare combination of discipline, ability and commitment that is so desperately and consistently required to gather one’s thought at the end of a gruelling day of cricket, to articulate the same and finally commit those thoughts to pen and paper leaves one with a high degree of confidence that Aakash can and will make a fist of whatever he decides to do once he retires from the game. At the same time, as a fan, it is a trifle disappointing that he did not get a chance to represent the country regularly over a longer period. As these are precisely the qualities that a fan likes to see in members of his favorite team. It is a reflection of the extent to which Indian cricket has progressed over the last few years. A little further back in time and it would have been difficult to keep a player of Aakash’s skills and attributes (even more relevant as an opening bat) out of the playing eleven, leave alone the squad.

The book is also inspirational in many ways. It is a definite must read for any young cricketer aspiring for international recognition and glory. It is easy to ignore the agony that precedes ecstasy. The path is arduous and crossing it requires a tremendous amount of grit, determination and, not to forget, lucky breaks. Once having reached the summit, remaining there consumes even higher levels of whatever was required to reach there in the first place. The near-awe with which Aakash describes Ponting, the world’s best all round fielder, sweating it out during a fielding drill in the heat and humidity of Kolkata is testimony to this. The easiest trap to fall into is to rest on one’s laurels.

The fact that the book is written by an active cricketer with legitimate ambitions of representing the country at the highest level, is also a stirring reminder to people that multiple passions can be explored and furthered at the same time. The oft repeated excuse of lack of time is generally a euphemism for pure and simple laziness.

I was left with just one nagging thought as I completed reading the book. At various points, Aakash has made very clear either his admiration, respect and/ or his regard for his Indian team mates like Dravid, Kumble, Sachin (who does not), Laxman, and for his Delhi mates like Gambhir and Sehwag. Why, he has also recorded the immense respect that he has for international players like Ponting, Taibu, David Hussey and the likes. However, and I may be way out of whack here, any mention to Ganguly is very cursory and matter of fact. It is even more surprising considering that it was only under Ganguly that Aakash has ever represented India. Maybe it is my hyper active mind wanting to make more out of it and reading between non existent lines, but it did seem a little weird to me.

Keep them coming Aakash. And all the very best to you in your persevering endeavors in making it back amongst the Men in Blues.


One Response to “A nice little cameo”

  1. Vivek Says:

    Suresh Menon in his review of the book called it the best by an Indian Test cricketer. Wish someone like Sanjay Manjrekar writes a book too.
    Will check this out soon.

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