The Commonwealth of Cricket is Ramachandra Guha’s reflection on a life that has been spent playing, watching and (briefly) administering cricket in India. I read the book after reading his interview on the topic of the book on Cricinfo and am glad that I did. I have only read one of Guha’s other books (he has authored many, I have since learnt) – A Corner of a Foreign Field, which was one of the first cricket history books that I was exposed to. He is a master story teller and builds on his many years of experience living and breathing cricket to the fore. Right through the reading of his latest book, I found that his comment on how easy it is for him to write about cricket resonating at the back of my mind. I identified with that thought immediately – for me too, it is so much easier to write about a topic such as cricket. My thoughts on the sport and the different personalities associated with it that I admire, despise or do not care about, flow freely. In the book, I found that it was the same with Guha. He has sections devoted to different countries, cricketers and so forth, which makes the book an easy read. He has also put forth his experiences with various cricketers, past and present and his brief tenure as part of the CoA appointed by the Supreme Court to “clean up” cricket in India.
I come from a family of cricket fans. My grandfather was known to collect clippings of the scoresheets from the Test matches in the 60s, 70s and possibly until the time of his demise in the early 90s. My father and I inherited the interest in the game although the fanaticism has likely gone to my cousins, at least one of who, I know, still watches *all* the cricket on TV in India. Heaven knows, there was a lot of it, especially in pre-COVID days. A few of my friends too follow all the cricket across the globe and the domestic cricket scene not just in India, but even in other countries! I have not gone that far in my liking of the sport – I restrict myself to the Indian domestic cricket scene. Although without the experience of being a member of a cricket club in Bangalore, I am a fan of Karnataka cricket. Like Guha too, I find that I am no longer an ardent supporter of India in cricket matches, but my heart definitely wills for Karnataka to win whenever they play in any of the domestic tournaments. It helps, of course, that I am an admirer of Rahul Dravid – that batting great who represented Karnataka and India and continues to inspire and coach hundreds of cricketers in his role at the National Cricket Academy, Bangalore.
From the book, I learnt that I share so many views of the game with Guha. Of course, there are a few that I diverge upon, as well. Regardless, it is the commonality that has stuck with me even a week or so after completion of a reading of the book. His views on nepotism and conflict of interest in cricket are well documented. I can’t help but agree with all of it. The presence of Jay Shah, the son of the Home Minister of India, Amit Shah in the BCCI is a tell-tale sign of the politics in the administration of cricket in the country. Almost every appointment in the BCCI council of administrators seems to be driven by political means and therefore, cleaning up cricket in India is a lost cause. But then, as true cricket fans, let’s enjoy the cricket being played on the ground and ignore the shenanigans of the administrators.
My thoughts on the book cannot end without a comment on a section that Guha has dedicated to his dreams about cricket. He talks about how he dreams of Warne and Akram (Guha was a self-proclaimed mediocre spin bowler). For most, that part of the book might seem like idle rumination of a 60 year old. For me, it found resonance with my own dreams/ aspirations for nearly a couple of decades when he was actively playing – that of walking out to bat with Dravid at the crease. I pat the pitch, have a word with him before we build a partnership. Call this the rumination of a middle-aged cricket fan. It is what it is!
I set out to review a book, but even as I was reading it, I found myself envious of the author. He has had the opportunity to meet with so many national and International cricketers and gets to write a book about his thoughts on the game and the sportsmen. I enjoyed reading it. I dare say that fans of Karnataka and Indian cricket will enjoy it too.