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Cricket & Beyond by Gulu Ezekiel
Published by Ocean Books Pvt Ltd, Price: Rs 250
Review by Partab Ramchand
As Bishen Singh Bedi writes in his foreword Gulu Ezekiel wears his passion on his sleeve. Perhaps I know this even better than Bishen for I have been following Gulu’s writing for 30 years ever since he started his journalistic career with the Indian Express in Chennai (then Madras) in 1982. In fact he joined the newspaper just as I left and ever since then we have been able to keep in touch even though we live 1200 miles apart.
Even when he was a rookie reporter I could see the fire in Gulu’s eyes when it came to dealing with ticklish issues or major controversies. He could put forward an argument forthrightly and because he was so erudite and had a way with the English language it was difficult to counter him. With Gulu there really were never any grey areas. It was all either black or white and when he took a stand he rarely would change his views whether it concerned a burning topic or a complex personality. He was never one for compromises on anything he felt was right. This has continued till this day and even in his early 50s there is very little signs of mellowness. He still has fire in his belly and believes in taking up the causes in which he believes in with the same verve and vigour.
Gulu’s writing has almost always been hard hitting and why not? When one is sure of the facts and has deep knowledge of a sport, an incident or a person’s background he should be forceful in his view. And this comes out admirably in his latest book – his 14th – which is a selection of 40 of the best articles he has written over the three decades of his career. Whether talking about why cricket and golf go together or relating table tennis champion V Chandrasekhar’s gallant fightback after a routine knee operation went horribly awry Gulu is able to convey vividly the stark similarity of the former and the poignant battle of the latter.
Gulu has written on various issues and personalities over the years and many sports are covered in the book though he maintains that cricket and the Olympics have been his greatest sporting passions. Not unexpectedly most of the pieces are on cricket but there are also articles on boxing, chess, table tennis, tennis, athletics, motor racing and the personalities associated with the sports – Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, MS Dhoni, VVS Laxman, Muhammad Ali, Viswanathan Anand, V Chandrasekhar, Narain Karthikeyan, `Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh. Besides there are several off beat pieces which are perhaps the most interesting like ``when Proctor polished Sobers’ shoes’’. And along the way the reader will be treated to all the trademarks of an eminently readable sports writer - pithy descriptions, catchy phrases and sentences, an easy style, little known stories and anecdotes.
Gulu’s vast experience – he has worked extensively in all forms of the media, print, radio, television and the internet – comes through clearly. Balanced analysis is the core of his writing. For example his apathy for the IPL comes out openly but then he also lists the reasons for being cynical about something that has caught the public fancy in a big way. Overall reading the book which has much varied fare is like enjoying a hearty buffet lunch.