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Novelists Turn to Cricket for Inspiration

August 2008
Novelists Turn to Cricket for Inspiration

Come across any good fiction dealing with cricket? Though such novels are rare, it’s quite different when it comes to nonfiction. Much ink has been spilt and many nonfiction authors have written eloquently on a sport that cultural and social critic Ashis Nandy once described as “an Indian game accidentally invented by the British.” Recently, at least three Indian novelists writing in English have taken on cricket. About time, fans would say, given that cricket films like Lagaan and Iqbal have done well at the box office.

Is Harimohan Paruvu’s The Men Within, brought out last year by Indialog Publications, the first Indian cricket novel in English? Very likely, according to sports journalist Rajan Bala. Paruvu, a former Ranji Trophy medium-pacer for Hyderabad, sets his tale at Golconda Public School, where the principal, faced with declining standards and rebellious board members, hires an alumnus as the cricket coach. “Taking the help of all the team members, the supporting staff and the principal who brought him back to save the school’s honor, the coach is triumphant in the end,” states a review. A former engineer and management professional, Paruvu intertwines his story with pointers on how to improve one’s cricketing skills and strategy.

Anuja Chauhan, an executive director at J. Walter Thompson Advertising, has written a cricket novel that centers on a character whose birth coincides with India’s historic World Cup triumph in 1983. Titled The Zoya Factor, it has just been published by Harper Collins India. “Cricket insiders will love the gentle lampooning of the whole cricket circus, the pushy agents, the starry players and the manipulative board,” a review points out.

Yet another novel, Tuhin Sinha’s 22 Yards (Westland Books), has been described as an Indian cricket thriller that takes a hard look at the sport’s seamier side.

In an interesting twist, or googly, a cricket novel is making news in the United States. Joseph O’Neill’s critically acclaimed Netherland (Pantheon) is set in New York, which is more of a baseball-land, given the dominance of the Yankees and the Mets. However, like some other large metros, New York does have a cricket culture that thrives in its South Asian and West Indian immigrant communities. Chuck Ramkissoon, a key character in the novel, is in fact a Trinidadian of South Asian descent.

Years ago, Ian Buruma—another author who (like O’Neill) grew up in the Netherlands—wrote an intriguing cricket novel in English. Called Playing the Game, it’s a fictional recreation of K. S. Ranjitsinhji’s life. Known as Ranji, he was an Indian-born prince who, in the early years of the 20th century, became a legendary batsman for England in Test cricket. India’s best-known domestic trophy for first-class cricket is named after him.

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