Laxman launches ESPNcricinfo's Talking Cricket
Talking Cricket, a compilation of in-depth interviews with the greats of the modern era - from the Nawab of Pataudi to Mark Taylor - on various aspects of cricket, was launched in Hyderabad on Friday by VVS Laxman, the former India batsman. The book, which was launched in the company of commentator Harsha Bhogle and ESPNcricinfo editor Sambit Bal, brings together selected long-form interviews covered in ESPNcricinfo, Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazines over the past decade.
The book features 22 interviews in the Q&A format with current and former players giving their inputs on topics including the technical aspects of the game, and the mental side. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis explain the nuances of swing and fast bowling, Matthew Hayden speaks on intimidation, Ian Chappell on Australianism, Sachin Tendulkar on how he changed his game and Bill Lawry on commentary. Captaincy has been explored in great detail, with four players - Nasser Hussain, Mark Taylor, Mahela Jayawardene and Pataudi - speaking on the subject.
The idea with the series was to broadly explore a single theme in each interview. "Over the years, we interviewed cricketers across generations and countries on a variety of subjects," Bal wrote in his introduction. "If you wanted to know how VVS Laxman developed the gift of caressing the ball from outside off through midwicket, or why Virender Sehwag bats the way he does, you can hear it from the men themselves."
He says the Q&A style does justice to delving deeper into a particular topic: "The Q&A is a format that keeps the interviewee centre stage. The interviewer contributes by steering the conversation, but the spotlight never leaves the subject. The embellishments of the written-through format may at times read better, and the impressionistic interventions of the writer may provide a deeper sense of place and time, but for revelation of soul and exploration of depth, the Q&A is incomparable."
During a live chat with Bhogle and Bal, ahead of the launch, Laxman spoke about how he became a better player of spin, how he developed his wristy style of batting, and why youngsters should be taught early on how to handle fame and pressure.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo