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September 19, 2011

Cricket books

Long-lost treasures

Samir Chopra
Cover image of Dennis Lillee's book "The Art of Fast Bowling", September 19, 2011
The Art of Fast Bowling by Dennis Lillee  © Lutterworth Publishers
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This past June, thanks to the generosity of a soon-to-be-threatened frequent flyers' program, I managed to indulge in the uncommon luxury of making a second trip in a year's time to India. Besides being fortunate enough to travel through Ladakh's spectacular high-altitude lunar landscapes, I managed to carry out my usual quasi-archaeological digs through those old belongings of mine that still take up space at my brother's residence in Delhi.

I came up trumps, netting a tiny catch, part of a much larger collection of cricket books and magazines: old copies of the World Cricket Digest and Sportsweek's World of Cricket, Dennis Lillee's The Art of Fast Bowling, Conrad Hunte's Playing to Win, and Sunil Gavaskar's Sunny Days. I hadn't laid eyes on them for close to 24 years. They had been buried away at the bottom of an old trunk stored in a garage, waiting patiently for retrieval, for their chance to accompany me on a long flight back to New York. Miraculously, they were all in good shape, their pages slightly yellowing but still readable.

And each one of them carried with it memories of the times I had bought and read them, sometimes with hard-earned allowances, sometimes with a generous dispensation sent my way by my long-suffering mother, condemned to watch her young son whiling away his time memorising cricket statistics and scorecards, dreaming of absent lands and cricketers, rather than trying to improve his school exam scores.

I bought those books and periodicals from a variety of sources, all of whose proprietors had come to be familiar with me: the paan-chewing news-stand owner, who had set up shop next to the florist, who always held on to Sportstar and Sportsweek and their special issues for me because he knew I would eventually pick them up; the gentle old man at the high-end book store who indulged my endless browsing because he knew that one day, I would be back to buy one of those titles when I had saved enough money; the second-hand bookseller who was pleasantly surprised to have his first suggested price accepted by me with great alacrity.

And on each occasion, as I stepped away from the just-concluded purchase, I impatiently set course for home, flicking through the pages of my new precious possession, heading for a couch or an armchair where I could comfortably ensconce myself, perhaps with a cup of tea or snack handy, to devour and digest (I mean the book of course).

Most of my cricket collection from long ago remains lost. I wonder where my copy of the Don's autobiography is, for instance. Perhaps they were 'borrowed' by family; perhaps they were thrown out by mistake. But I'm glad I was able to enact a partial rescue mission, one that enabled some rather shameless nostalgia mongering.

That small and not-classic collection of cricket literature sits now on my bookshelves at home, next to more recent purchases, reflective of my changing interests over the years. They can breathe a little easier now; I won't chuck them in a trunk, or put them out in a garage sale. Each one is a reminder of not just a different cricketing era but of a very different time in my life.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Keywords: Cricket books

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by prakash on (October 22, 2011, 23:41 GMT)

Hi Samir,

Good of you to bring back all those memories kept hidden so far back in some corner of my brain. I once saw a series of pictures on a wall in which Dennis Lillee's bowling action was displayed. I meant to get hold of those pictures, but never did.

To pa99: Yes, I remember Sports & Pastime. We used to collect pictures and paste them in a book. Chronology was very important. I'm certain my collection is gone forever. It was great fun. My parents could never understand why I needed large books in which cricket pictures took priority over my home work in mathematics.

I've more to tell later.

Cheers,

Prakash

Posted by naresh on (October 3, 2011, 16:36 GMT)

I had Art of Fast Bowling. I managed to clean up a guy with a "slower ball" at school after reading that. (I was not fast really - but the guy "never saw it coming" ;)

PS. Come to think of it, the "slower one" was probably my best bet from that book.

Posted by Vivek Bhandari on (September 27, 2011, 13:02 GMT)

I have very similar memories to what you people have shared here. I, too, longed for Sportstar and Cricket Samrat. My room walls were choc-a-block with the posters. And I remember in 1999, Outlook released a special edition marking 10 years of Sachin Tendulkar in int'l cricket. I kept it around for some 10 years, and then lost it somewhere in the fast-paced life. Now, I don't buy these magazines as there's cricinfo.

@Santosh John Samuel: Thanks for the URL, it's really refreshing to read about the ardent fan...

Posted by Pingle Reddy, M.D. on (September 25, 2011, 14:23 GMT)

I have an 1896 Wisdens Cricket Almanac( The Bible of Cricket!) in good condition considering its age. In addition, a 1935 autobiography by Herbert Sutcliffe titled " For Yorkshire and England"; a 1953 " Behind the Tests" by Norman Cutler highlighting the Bodyline controversy;a 1960's commorative on Kumar Shri Duleepsinghi with tributes from icons in cricket and several other noteable books. They all occupy a special place in my study and I every now and then - when snowed in or down with the flu- an annual event on the East coast of N. america - resort to reading these books.

Posted by Karthik on (September 22, 2011, 10:47 GMT)

I am proud to say that I have retained my modest collection of the magazine 'The Sportstar' from about 1987 to about 1996 and also a few random ones from 1983,84,85 and 86. I would not be disposing them off despite my family's repeated requests to do so. Post 1996, my interest in collecting the issues just died, probably due to too much cricket being played and the excitement of reliving the game through pictures and words just sort of went away. Even now I experience a sense of awe everytime I go through those old issues. Cricket back then (early 80s) was more appealing. I am sort of sad that my young son who will in all probability be a cricket fanatic like me will not experience the game as I did.

Posted by pa99 on (September 22, 2011, 2:54 GMT)

Ah, what memories, Samir! now who remembers Sports & Pastime? for some reason 2 pics of Richie benaud dropping and then catching Pankaj Roy on 99 in Delhi from the bowling of chinaman Lindsay Kline still stays with me. The next pic showed Benaud gobbling up the catch from the next ball - an exact replica of the previous delivery.

I sometimes forget impotant dates such as birthdays but this little fact stays strong & intact. Obviously a neuronal pathway has made some strong connections.

PS: I have a book by a 12-year old Dom Moraes - Green is the Grass. Yes, you read right - 12 years old with a Forward by Vijay Merchant!

Posted by Pranesh on (September 21, 2011, 22:47 GMT)

Reminds me of my school days too... Sportstar was the leading sports magazine then, the posters on the center page used to be a treat. I stopped buying it when they changed to the tabloid size format.. It didnt let me hide the book under the desk in class :) And I wonder which airline you use, for your New York to India flight to go over Ladakh. I could try that once.

Posted by Santosh John Samuel on (September 20, 2011, 12:09 GMT)

Thanks for the memories Samir. I'm sure a lot of us in their late thirties and early forties feel the same way. Wonder where my copies of Idols, Sunny Days and Criket Coaching Manual (Frank Tyson) are? And while on the topic of nostalgia (and just in case you missed out) check out http://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/article2372959.ece

Posted by Anshul Nagar on (September 20, 2011, 7:41 GMT)

i will start with an apology to Mr.Chopra that i normally dont read his articles, but he got me with this one. I also have had a collection of 'cricket samrat' starting from titan cup 1996 to around 2005.When i was 9 i used to eat with them sleep with them and used to shit with them.My trips to secondhand book seller who was famous for for A- rated stock, n me going to him and ask "uncle purani crickrt ki magazine hai kaya?",is legendary.I still miss those books as a monster in me sold them who thought "ab inka kaya karna hai". I miss them more than Andy will ever miss Buzz n Woody.

Posted by Jaideep on (September 20, 2011, 4:40 GMT)

Great Samir, You remind me of myself. I had a huge collecttion of Sportsweek from 1977 till about 1988 when it folded up. All treasured possessions of school days was lost when shifting to a smaller residence in Mumbai. I too had to borrow money to buy them and granny was very helful in these matters. I have been able to retain the cricket books although The Hindu's 'Indian Cricket' from early seventies appear to be misplaced.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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