Reviews ReviewsRSS FeedFeeds

You Must Like Cricket? Memoirs of an Indian Cricket fan

India's obsession

In exploring his own micro-obsession the author hopes to throw light on the macro-obsession of world cricket's most powerful nation, a place where Sachin Tendulkar bats and an audience the size of Europe watches

Paul Coupar

Text size: A | A

"Death penalty to those who have raped Indian cricket." No, this is not CMJ in the Times but graffiti in Kolkata after India's moderate start to the 2003 World Cup. In terms of hype, hoopla and howling obsession, Indian cricket makes the Premiership look like crown-green bowls.

This intense love affair is explored here with a devotee's enthusiasm by Soumya Bhattacharya. A Kolkata journalist, he began his courtship as a boy listening to TMS in a Bengali backwater and ended up as a man who, when asked his daughter's birthday, replies, "Um, well ... she was born the year India beat Australia after following on."

The book mixes personal reminiscence and wider analysis - Fever Pitch for Indian cricket, right down to the obscure musical references and the self-loathing that is the flipside of addiction. In exploring his own micro-obsession Bhattacharya hopes to throw light on the macro-obsession of world cricket's most powerful nation, a place where Sachin Tendulkar bats and an audience the size of Europe watches. He succeeds best when the real world gets a look-in alongside the 24/7 cricket. Only then do we get a true sense of what Matthew Engel called the game's "importance and unimportance". Most movingly he explains the shame and anger his parents felt after India's disastrous 1974 tour of England. They were on a working trip to the UK and never again spoke to English people about cricket.

Moments when the author takes a step back from the boundary are fascinating. Some mouldering clich├ęs are chucked out. Cricket is not like a religion in India ("Religion has led to some of the deepest scars that India carries in its heart. Cricket is the balm that heals.") And there are warnings of the amount of cricket even an obsessive can stomach. "The surfeit," writes Bhattacharya, "has killed the sharpness of our memories." The fan's-eye enthusiasm is the book's great strength but can also be a weakness. The breathless observations never quite congeal into a thesis. And the long stretches detailing the minutiae of one-day games amply demonstrate that the man in Kolkata is far more interested in onedayers than the man in Corby, without ever quite explaining why.

The book is lovingly written and often entertaining but in the end Bhattacharya, like a man with his nose to a skyscraper, is perhaps a little too close to his subject to be able fully to explain it to others. That is the nature of obsession.

This article was first published in the October 2006 issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
Click here for further details.

Paul Coupar is assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer

RSS Feeds: Paul Coupar

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Email Feedback Print
Paul CouparClose
Related Links
Players/Officials: CLR James

    'When I became an umpire, I didn't realise how complicated this game was'

Peter Willey on suiting upo against '80s West Indies, and umpiring in England

    'Saqlain was like an English spinner with a subcontinental touch'

My XI: Erapalli Prasanna on a spinner whom even Sachin Tendulkar found hard to bat against

Hitting Warnie for six, and Test stumpings

Think You Know Yourself: Do administrators have their numbers at their fingertips? Not Dave Richardson

    Last ball, last wicket, and Northants' parched spell

Ask Steven: Also, Vijay Manjrekar's nickname, Abid Ali's no-ball, oldest double-centurions, and this decade's leading players

Cricket: complex, unknowable cricket

Jon Hotten: We, as players and spectators, are finite, but cricket, utterly brilliant in its design, is not

News | Features Last 7 days

How India weeds out its suspect actions

The BCCI set up a three-man committee to tackle the problem of chucking at age-group and domestic cricket, and it has produced significant results in five years

A rock, a hard place and the WICB

The board's latest standoff with its players has had embarrassing consequences internationally, so any resolution now needs to be approached thoughtfully

Kohli back to old habits

Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala

West Indies go AWOL

West Indies may have formally played the fourth ODI in Dharamsala but their fielding suggested their minds were already on the flight back home

KP and the green-eyed monster

Individual rivalries in team sports can be productive or destructive. Jealousy may have spurred Pietersen the batsman, but at the cost of the team's image

News | Features Last 7 days