Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Review of 'Cricket: All You Wanted To Know About The World Cup'

Disclaimer: Diptakirti is a "social media friend" of mine. Though we haven't met in real life yet, which is a shame, we're regularly in touch through Twitter and Facebook and also have a common circle of friends. In spite of the above I have tried my best to keep the review completely impartial and unbiased.

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To begin with I didn't like the name of the book, one bit. Given it's the first book of the author of the extremely humorous blog 'Calcutta Chromosome' I expected better than a summary of the book as the title. However, after finishing the book (in 2 hours flat!) I realised it is perhaps an attempt to come across as honestly as possible, because this book is not exactly a work of fiction. It's a reference/guide book to the World Cup of Cricket and probably the author didn't want anyone to buy the book with any misconceptions about the contents of it.

'Cricket' (going forward in this post will refer to the book by that simple moniker) has the potential to become the Bible to thousands of 7-14 year old cricket crazy, statistics mad kids across India. Especially the quizzing, trivia scavenger types. And that brings me to my next point that I found a bit odd, Puffin Books (the children's book arm of Penguin), the publisher of 'Cricket' for some inexplicable reason decided to put '12+' in large big fonts on the back cover. There's not a word in the entire 170 odd pages that I wouldn't be comfortable saying in front of a 5 year old. [Update: I have been informed that "the age recommendation Puffin puts is from the 'reading/comprehension' proficiency angle and not the content. Kids below 12 years would not be able to read so much text comfortably"]

Finally, coming to the contents of 'Cricket'. I wish Diptakirti had written this 15-17 years back and the budding quizzer in me (specialising in sports, and super specialising in cricket) would have put him on the highest pedestal I had for writers. It really has "all that I would have wanted to know about the world cup" and could have helped me bulldoze my opponents in the various cricket quizzes that crop up during the WC season. However, yesterday when I finished the book it was more like a refresher session of Complex Equations, India's Independence Struggle or the Merchant of Venice (ICSE 2000 text book) rather than coming across new concepts, stories and theories that I had never heard of before. Not that I knew everything that's mentioned in the book, at least I definitely didn't remember it all, but somehow missed the "Wow, that's a neat piece of information!" moments. To be fair I had been a very active cricket quizzer all through my school & college life and given there was only 5-6 World Cups to cover, almost all of us knew everything from the colour of Kapil Dev's shoe laces to Lance Klusener's girlfriend's favourite boy bands. 

But this was during school, maybe college. Over the past 5 years or so my association with cricket has dwindled down to the occasional ODI championship final, or close games involving India or the IPL. So, what I was really looking forward to was to get acquainted with the players of the other 13 teams participating in this WC. Have almost no idea about who they are and how good/bad they are and what to expect from them. This is a section that is conspicuous by it's absence. There's an in-depth coverage of the Indian squad, and just as you turned the page expecting the rest it goes off into yet another ode to Sachin Tendulkar article. So after the 2 hours, my WC knowledge from the past has been thoroughly refreshed and polished, but I am still as clueless about the WC starting in less than 2 weeks as I was before starting 'Cricket'.

Now, when I read the review so far I realise I am painting a picture which is far from what my thoughts on the book actually are! The well researched statistics, the junkets of trivia gleaned from over 35 years of the WC, the jovial sketches of players, coaches and commentators, the most spectacular matches which the present school going generation couldn't watch live, highlighted and described with the love and passion for the game - all this put together makes it a must gift have for most school going kids and the grandpas spending the majority of their time in front of the television sets watching any and every cricket match that's on TV. If you're starting your quizzing career (we quizzers take this trivia tradition very seriously!) you'll never regret getting your hands on this mini-cricket omnibus.

Let the cup of joy begin!

P.S: You can buy the book for Rs. 169 from Flipkart.
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