Reviews ReviewsRSS FeedFeeds

Out of the Blue

Behind the Rajasthan fairy tale

Aakash Chopra tells the story of the 2010-11 Ranji champions with insight, warmth and attention to detail

Suresh Menon

December 11, 2011

Comments: 9 | Text size: A | A

Cover image of <i>Out of the Blue</i> by Aakash Chopra
Enlarge
Related Links
Players/Officials: Aakash Chopra
Teams: India | Rajasthan

It was a story that needed to be told; we are lucky that it has been told by an insider who is as comfortable with his square cuts as he is with the smooth metaphor, and one who appreciates the passion, humour and the myriad human stories contained in victory and defeat.

Rajasthan, bottom of the lower division of the Ranji Trophy in 2009-10, finished national champions the following season. The fairy tale has all the implausibility of Cinderella and others in the genre, and Aakash Chopra describes it with warmth and attention to detail.

In this case, of course, every bit is true. The creativity lies in the telling. "When you are Rajasthan," says Chopra in the prologue, "last in the Plate Division, never having won the title, never even coming close to a final in over three decades, you don't play to win the honour, you play to save what you can of yours."

How did Rajasthan get it so right after a season when they had got it so wrong? For one, they hired the right professionals. Two of them, Chopra and Hrishikesh Kanitkar , had international experience, and more importantly, were bristling to make a point after being treated poorly by their original teams, Delhi and Maharashtra respectively. For a professional, that is usually motivation enough.

Then there was the attitude of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA), which was both professional and understanding of player needs. Officials cut through red tape when it was warranted, players were given the confidence they would be looked after (despite the usual politics), and loyalty was earned rather than demanded.

Chopra pays due tributes are paid to the RCA, but ultimately the book is about the real heroes, men like the opening batsman Vineet Saxena, who in a three-month period lost his father, his daughter and his job. As Chopra says, "Cricket was no longer about scoring runs, it was the only way to keep his family going. Failure was no longer an option." Hours after burying his daughter, Saxena was in Jaipur to play a match.

It is about Deepak Chahar, who was told by Greg Chappell that he was "not cut out for cricket", but began the season with figures of 7.3-2-10-8 to dismiss Hyderabad for 21. Cricket to him was a means to enabling his father to pay off his loans.

It is about Vivek Yadav, who ran away from home because of opposition to his playing cricket; Pankaj Singh, who travelled ticketless on a 30-hour train ride; and a host of others, each with a unique story. Men like these form the backbone of the domestic game in India - mildly feted in small circles, forced to make huge sacrifices to keep playing, but somehow managing to keep their vision alive. A world away from the Tendulkars and the Dravids.

There is a romance about the underdogs coming good which is the essence of sport. Rajasthan might have been languishing in the boondocks of Indian cricket, but with every victory (discussed in detail, with scorecards, here), self-belief grew, and the improbable toppled into the realm of the inevitable.

Chopra, who made a mark as a writer and thinker of substance with his first book, Beyond the Blues brings to his task a deep knowledge of the game and an empathy for the players. Out of the Blue is the story of a classic journey, with ups and downs and unexpected beauty in strange places. It is also the story of the mindset of a professional cricketer in a team of amateurs almost too used to being treated as men who don't matter in the larger scheme of things.

The author's honesty and generosity are summed up in this description of team-mate Rashmi Ranjan Parida: "He is one of the best players of spin bowling I have come across... it looks like he is trying not to hurt the ball while hitting it. When I see someone like that at the top of his game I count my blessings. I may not be half as good as him, but I am the proud owner of an India cap."

Aakash Chopra played ten Tests for India, but his best days in the service of the national team might be ahead of him.

Out of the Blue: Rajasthan's Road to the Ranji Trophy
by Aakash Chopra
Harper Sport, Rs 299, 262pp


Buy here

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore

RSS Feeds: Suresh Menon

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (December 13, 2011, 3:35 GMT)

Aakash Chopra is one of the finest writer in the cricketing world right now..His articles on cricinfo are more insightful than many high-profiled columnists..way to go man...keep up the good work..:)

Posted by KishorKumar25 on (December 12, 2011, 6:50 GMT)

Akash Chopra's next big thing in Cricket-Intelectual Circle. He is indeed shakespeare of cricket ;)

Posted by insightfulcricketer on (December 11, 2011, 19:54 GMT)

Aakash's article in cricinfo on India' domestic cricket are always compelling read. I would love if this book is available on Kindle or Nook. Its fitting the timing of this book is the start of Australia tour by India. Akash's brief dalliance with international cricket coincided with the tour of 2003'04. He was an average cricketer but even then what stood out was his bravery against Lee's and Gillespies bouncers and he was a vital cog in Indian batting wheel by providing a stable start and ensuring the openers were still there at least till lunch .He was also a very good short leg fielder -the enthusiasm of the tenant of this position shows their commitment to the team like nobody else does. Look forward to your book.

Posted by   on (December 11, 2011, 17:47 GMT)

Is there a way to obtain an ebook version of this book? Can't find it on the website

Posted by   on (December 11, 2011, 17:36 GMT)

Amazing stuff.. A must read for the cricket fanatics and those who aren't, good way to learn....

Posted by mukul_skywalker on (December 11, 2011, 17:16 GMT)

are you sure its the story of rajasthan team's players or lagaan's team players

Posted by   on (December 11, 2011, 16:26 GMT)

Sadden to read about the tragedies Vineet Saxena had go through but at same time very inspiring.Wishes for Aakash in writing this must-told story.

Posted by   on (December 11, 2011, 11:13 GMT)

Sounds like a must read. Having enjoyed Beyond the Blues, I am sure this one is every bit as compelling.

Posted by   on (December 11, 2011, 8:02 GMT)

truely awesome i'm going to read the whole book

Comments have now been closed for this article

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Suresh MenonClose
Suresh Menon Suresh Menon went from being a promising cricketer to a has-been, without the intervening period of a major career. He played league cricket in three cities with a group of overgrown enthusiasts who had the reverse of amnesia - they could remember things that never happened. For example, taking incredible catches at slip, or scoring centuries. Somehow Menon found the time to be the sports editor of the Pioneer and the Indian Express in New Delhi, Gulf News in Dubai, and the editor of the New Indian Express in Chennai. Currently he is a columnist with publications in India and abroad, and is beginning to think he might never play for India.

    Top dog of the underdogs

My Favourite Cricketer: Jack Russell brought a neatness to the keeper's art that was matched by his meticulous scruffiness in other regards. By Scott Oliver

    Rewarding times for Hashim Amla

Numbers Game: The rate at which he has accumulated ODI hundreds and MoM awards is among the fastest in history

'Ponting was an instinctive, aggressive player'

Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss Ricky Ponting's technique

    MacLeod spells hope for Scotland

Allrounder Calum MacLeod's return from a faulty action is key to Scotland's World Cup hopes. By Tim Wigmore

How boring is boring cricket?

Probably not as much as boring periods in the likes of rugby, football and tennis, Russell Jackson thinks

News | Features Last 7 days

Manic one-day chases, and daddy partnerships

Also, most brothers in a Test XI, and the fastest to 20 ODI centuries

Has international cricket begun to break up?

The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing wider, and the disenchantment is forcing a devaluation of Test cricket among weaker teams

Well worth the wait

Zulfiqar Babar missed five seasons between his first two first-class matches, and was 34 when he finally made his Test debut, but he is quickly making up for all the lost time with his artful left-arm spin

Younis Khan and the art of scoring hundreds

Out of 70 batsmen who've scored 15 or more Test hundreds only five are from Pakistan, but Younis Khan's appetite for hundreds matches that of some of the top contemporary batsmen

Australia outdone in every way

Surviving into the final session of the last day cannot disguise the fact that Australia's continued inability to play spin contributed to an all-round thrashing

News | Features Last 7 days

    Has international cricket begun to break up? (83)

    The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing wider, and the disenchantment is forcing a devaluation of Test cricket among weaker teams

    Lyon low after high of 2013 (51)

    The offspinner was Australia's highest wicket-taker in 2013, but his form has dipped sharply this year

    Australia outdone in every way (51)

    Surviving into the final session of the last day cannot disguise the fact that Australia's continued inability to play spin contributed to an all-round thrashing

    Rewarding times for Hashim Amla (47)

    The rate at which Amla has accumulated ODI hundreds and MoM awards is among the fastest in history. And his runs-per-innings figure is easily the best of the lot

    Well worth the wait (36)

    Zulfiqar Babar missed five seasons between his first two first-class matches, and was 34 when he finally made his Test debut, but he is quickly making up for all the lost time with his artful left-arm spin