Perfect catalogue of the World Cup

The storytelling in Ashis Ray’s new edition of Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge, updated to right before the start of the 2019 edition, is fluid and the characters that come and go are legends.

Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge. Ashis Ray. Bloomsbury. Rs499.

There are few things as special as cricket anecdotes, especially in India, where highlights of classics, talk shows and interviews with cricketers serve as sweet smartphone entertainment. Former cricket broadcaster Ashis Ray, hitting upon the need of the hour, released a new edition of his ode to the sport — Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge, updated to right before the start of the 2019 edition in England and Wales.

The book is the perfect catalogue of the prestigious tournament first held in 1975. People who are new to following cricket can leaf through the pages of history to learn how the success of Team India in 1983 had an effect on the Indian market and economy, and how it took the tournament out of England in 1987.

The surprise element is the preview of World Cup 2019.

After the first 100-odd pages, a high-resolution photo of Kapil Dev in action at Tunbridge Wells against Zimbabwe — the start of the winds of change — keeps the nine chapters connected.

Ray throws light on India’s unpreparedness in 1975 and ’79 and its rise four years later. The tour of the West Indies prior to the Cup is a talking point for how it silently groomed the players for the big stage; like a true media professional, the author covers all sides of the story.

Among the cherished anecdotes, Mohinder Amarnath recounting Kapil’s 175 saying, “We just stayed back in the basement of the dressing room” is gold.

Ray also takes the readers inside the Long Room at Lord’s, where “a tie and a jacket are necessary to gain entry.” Not many may have known that greats like Tiger Pataudi and Sunil Gavaskar were stopped at the gate, too. Pataudi had forgotten his tie, but he sneaked past by virtue of his royal lineage.

The book not only glorifies the heroes; it also takes us back to the hard days of Greg Chappell in chapter six that is rightly named ‘Disaster’. India did not go past the first round in World Cup 2007 in the Caribbean under the Australian. Chappell criticising Yuvraj Singh for not able to differentiate between a star and a rising star, his fondness for Suresh Raina and the treatment of Sourav Ganguly add to the drama quotient of the 216-page book.

The language is crisp and tight, the storytelling is fluid and the characters that come and go are legends. The only problem with the book could be its failure to keep one engaged, as full-page scorecards break the flow at times.