Beyond the Blues January 24, 2009

How I wrote Beyond the Blues

It was a landmark season with Delhi winning the Ranji Trophy after 16 years, North Zone clinching the Duleep Trophy, and me ending up being the highest run-scorer

Dear readers,

Though this post has probably got nothing to do with domestic cricket, my book most certainly does have. I'll take the liberty of taking you through the journey of how Beyond the Blues happened. At the insistence of Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, a friend and former Cricinfo journalist, I started keeping a diary for the 2007-08 first-class season.

Even though I had read quite a few rather popular diaries in England, I was sceptical about the interest such a book would generate with the Indian reading audience. People in India don't follow domestic cricket as closely as they do in England and perhaps that's why there has never been a book written about India's domestic cricket. The second issue preventing me from writing the book was the discipline and effort it would require. I knew that once started, I had to commit myself to write almost everyday, and that included days when I would come back home knackered after the day’s play, days when I would fail on the field and writing would be the last thing on my mind and on days when nothing of note would happen and hence would find it equally difficult to write.

But when I did start writing eventually, little did I know that it would become a book some day. I started writing notes at the end of the day and started enjoying it. Within two months into the season I had written over 20,000 words and that's when I realised I needed to see it through till the end. Writing at the end of a day's play was keeping me on my toes during the day as well. Though I wrote on days when I didn't do well, it wasn't a happy feeling. I would constantly tell myself that it would read quite badly in the end if I have a poor season; that I'm commenting and recording everyone's performances while I scored only a handful of runs. A very scary thought indeed. Not that it prevented me from nicking the ball outside off-stump to the keeper, but it did add that extra focus to do well.

A lot of things also conspired to keep me on my toes: the central contract, Delhi's dream run, my personal form and chances of playing for the country. In any case, I couldn't have written the script better. It was a landmark season with Delhi winning the Ranji Trophy after 16 years, North Zone clinching the Duleep Trophy, and me ending up being the highest run-scorer. We also had the first edition of the IPL in the same season to top it all.

Fortunately, finding a publisher wasn't a problem as Harper Collins came to know that I was writing a diary and approached me to publish it. The first hurdle was collecting the pictures for the book. Even though I carried my camera to all venues but my photographic skills are worse than my bowling skills .A photographer friend Ashutosh, who had clicked a lot of pictures during the domestic season, came to my rescue. The next bit was to choose the cover for the book and it was indeed good fun. I went to several book stores, not to buy books but to check out the covers to gain an idea. Finally, we had three options to choose from and I posted them on my facebook profile for the people's verdict and the one that got the maximum number of votes was finalised as the cover. Finding the title was even more difficult and facebook didn't come to my rescue this time, but a friend, yet another Cricinfo journalist, Sidharth Monga came up with this title 'Beyond the Blues' which we found very apt. The idea behind the title was that in India we identify our cricketers with the colour 'blue', these are our 'men in blue', but then there are 'the blues' of playing domestic cricket too which everyone goes through before donning the blue India colours.

The final bit was to finalise the date of release which gave us all a bit of a headache and some heartache too. We were supposed to release it in October but the book wasn't ready by then and we didn't want to do a shoddy job of it and hence postponed it. Then it was difficult to find time during the domestic season and so we decided to do it on December 22 at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai which would have been the fourth day of the second Test between India and England. But then 26/11 happened and the plans were scrapped. Celebration was the last thing on our minds at that point of time.

Finally, on January 8 the book saw the light of day with a release function in Delhi. I was overwhelmed with the response on that night. Everyone who I had invited turned up to show their love and support. Virender Sehwag cancelled his advert shoot to be there and the rest fought their way through a heavy traffic jam (thanks to some festival and petrol pump strike) to participate in the event. Mr Arun Jaitley, the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association president, was kind enough to officially release the book.

I can't thank everyone enough for making that day memorable. Now that the book is out and reviews have started pouring in, I'm a bundle of nerves once again. It is even worse than facing a quality bowler for two reasons. One — I've been playing cricket for as long as I remember and hence it doesn't make me too nervous. And second - while facing a quality bowler at least you have the opportunity to do something with the ball hurled in your direction, whereas in this case you could only read what others think about your work with no option to change the outcome. But then that's exactly the reason why anyone writes a book - to know what others think about it. So I'd like to request my readers to feel free to give an honest feedback on Beyond the Blues. And also forgive me for boring you with this post which has nothing to do with the ongoing season but I promise to make up for it in the forthcoming posts.


Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here