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11: Triumphs, Trials and Turbulence
Indian Cricket 2003-10
By Sanjay Jha
Orient Publishing, 276 pages. Rs. 495
By Gulu Ezekiel
Founder-editor of cricketnext.com, Sanjay Jha’s has been one of the most strident and independent voices in cricket journalism over the last decade. His greatest achievement perhaps has been keeping his website—launched with much fanfare during the dotcom boom in early 2000—not only alive, but kicking and thriving.
Jha has been highly visible of late on our TV screens as he has time and again picked holes in the IPL and its suspended commissioner, Lalit Modi. Indeed Jha was one of just a handful of cricket writers who saw through the glitz and glamour smokescreen of the IPL from the start and had been alerting readers for the past three years as to the potential harm the mega-bucks league could inflict on Indian cricket.
In a delicious irony of timing, the book was released shortly after the whole IPL bubble burst and the nation finally woke up to what Jha (and a few others) had been prophesizing since 2008.
The suspension of Modi was preceded and followed by numerous tawdry revelations—still to be proved—and then came yet another disastrous performance by the Indian team in an ICC tournament. The lie that the IPL was of benefit to Indian cricket was therefore finally nailed.
The book is divided into eight sections and the final one, ‘Qua Vadis, Cricket?’ has various columns exposing the ills of the IPL. Sample this prescient passage from the epilogue: “IPL is currently doing a waltz with both feet on a banana peel. But even its fall will probably find a queue of willing sponsors for its closing ceremony.”
Like all columnists must, Jha can have a polarizing effect with his take-no-prisoners style of writing as with the stand he took during the Sourav Ganguly/coach Greg Chappell imbroglio that roiled Indian cricket from 2005 to 2007.
In Jha’s lexicon, there is only black (Chappell) and white (Ganguly) and no grey in between. A touch over the top and melodramatic perhaps. But then what counts at the end of the day, is Jha cares passionately for Indian cricket and that comes shining through every page.
This writer has always felt it is the duty of a reviewer to point out errors in a book which could perhaps be rectified in future editions. Jha’s website pulled off quite a coup by sponsoring a World XI v. Asia XI match in Dhaka to mark their launch. But for the author’s (and reader’s) information, this was not the first time Indian and Pakistani players “wore the same colours.”
That occasion in fact was in 1996 at the start of the Wills World Cup. A joint Indo-Pak team took on Sri Lanka in Colombo to display Asian solidarity in the wake of the bombings and subsequent boycott of matches in Colombo by the West Indies and Australia.
Obviously a typo here, but the name of the former selector should be Ranjib Biswal and not Ranjit.
It was the Padma Shri that was awarded to Harbhajan Singh and MS Dhoni, not the Padma Vibhushan as the author has mentioned.
Also, India’s defeat at the hands of Pakistan in the 2009 edition of the Champions Trophy was not the first time we had been beaten by our arch-rivals in an ICC championships That occurred in the 2004 Champions Trophy in England.
And finally, a regular mistake in the Indian media here, it is not ‘Sir’ Geoffrey Boycott but plain Mr. Boycott as the former England captain and opener has not yet been knighted (and is unlikely ever to be) by his queen.
There can be no better way to end this review than with a telling quote from the book: “Cricket in India has a huge halo. But if it falls just one inch it will be a noose.”
The noose now appears to be tightening.