Cricket Country: The Untold History of the First All India Team Cricket voted Sports Book of the Year

Harpal Singh Bedi

New Delhi:  Cricket Country: The Untold History of the First All India Team Cricket by Prashant Kidambi. Published by Penguin Viking, was declared Sports Book of the Year at the end of the two day  Ekamra Sports Literature Festival here on Sunday.   

 Dipa Karmakar: The Small Wonder  co -authored by Bishweshwar Nandi, Digvijay Singh Deo , Vimal Mohan was voted as the  Biography of the Year  while   281 & Beyond by VVS Laxman and R Kaushik.  received the best Autobiography of the Year award.

 Wizards: The Story of Indian Spin Bowling by Anindya Dutta  was voted as the  best cricket book of the year award while the Outstanding Sports Book Award went to  – No Ball: The Murky World of Match Fixing by Chandramohan Puppala. Published by Pan Macmillan India

Speaking  on the occasion Shireen Sethi, Director of Ekamra Sports Literature Festival said, “The second season of the Ekamra Sports Lit Fest had some extremely engaging sessions with prominent  authors, bestselling books and the first ever sports awards being presented. 

“The next edition in 2020 would focus to bring in more sports writers from India and abroad, and with it bring in varied experiences, stories from across the sporting spectrum. We look forward to looking at more sports oriented books but in the genre beyond biographies and autobiographies.”  

The  second day of  Ekamra Sports Literature Festival began with a discussion on Athletes turned Politicians.  Panelist Kirti  Azad,  member of 1983 World Cup winning  Indian cricket team, said politics offers a platform for sportspersons  to give back to the game. Participating in the discussion Dilip Tirkey,  former Indian Hockey Captain,  spoke of the transformation to a politician from the grueling field of sports. They said being a sportsperson and serving people as a politician are filled with uncertainties and at the same time, are challenging.

Post lunch session started with a discussion on the book “ Fortune Turners” by  Aditya Bhushan and Sachin Bajaj  with special guest appearance  of  former spinner  Rajinder Goel.  He delighted the audience with anecdotes of the magic spells by bowlers of yesteryears. He described how cricket changed over time in every aspect while the author spoke about the importance of remembering the legends of cricket.

 On of the interesting  discussion of the day was  on the book   “Border’s  Battlers” a  thrilling book  on  world’s only   twice- tied-  up cricket match  in the word that happened between India and Australia at Madras. The narration involved the umpire Vikramraju who raised his finger to dismiss Maninder Singh to the much agony of Indian team which  otherwise would have  won if he didn’t. 

Reminiscing about the match, Vikramraju, now in his eighties, said he did what had to be done at that point of time. He still believes it was the right decision. The author of the book  Michael Sexton, who came in all the way from Australia, described how the elaborate research required for the book and his experiences of interviewing the players involved.

The most emotional and controversial session of the day was about a book authored by Canadian Cyclist  Kristen Worley  titled Woman Enoug.  Worley , a transgender sportsperson , said physical transition from  one gender to another was  painful and terrifying . She said life takes a different turn . She said she endured  many  odds and even won court cases to participate in cycling  and won there too.

The unusual session was on the Billion Dollar Industry with participants from sports management companies such as  JSW Sports, Go Sport,  Meraki  Sports, Baseline Ventures. The panelists spoke of the challenges of nurturing sports talent and the need for better co-ordination within the eco-system of Federations, state governments, management agencies, Foundations and athletes.Crowd favourite and Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka who won several awards for his debut book Chinaman spoke about cricket in his country  and the life around its including politics.  He said that cricket in Srilanka was no longer an exclusive club. Cricket is well catalogued these days he said.  While discussing Chinaman, Shehan said though people say his book makes readers like cricket , it is not necessary that  those who read books  go to see cricket and those who go to see cricket love to read books. Sports and politics in India and Srilanka are the same according to him, but he felt that in India the situation is better. Asked about how he is feeling now after switching to write children’s books from writing books like Chinaman,  Shehan said that  he has to do lot of research and it was tougher to  find a publisher ten years ago for Chinaman but that it was  easier with children’s  books.

While  receiving the prize  of  Best Sports publisher of the year for  Westland Publishers, VK Karthika  said that there is lot of scope for  sports fiction like that of Chinaman written by Shehan Karunatilaka ten years ago.


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