The cliche goes that in India cricket is more than a passion, it is a religion. Thousands or even lakhs of children play it with the dream of representing the country one day. Yet, not everyone makes it. In fact, very few do make it to the big stage. Cricket Changed My Life by Shamya Dasgupta traces the lives of a few players from their childhood to the present day, the ups and the downs, the sacrifices and those lucky moments which made them what they are today.

The book hopes to inspire young aspirants and for the rest provide stories of determination. What strikes you most is the desire to play the game amongst almost all the players highlighted in the book. Some remained in cricketing wilderness for years before the Indian Premier League (IPL) gave them a chance to be seen on television, while for others the IPL still remains elusive, but none of them gave up. The players had to overcome obstacles, both personal and bureaucratic, to get to where they are today.

The author has interviewed nineteen cricketers, a couple of foreigners amongst them. Some are popular cricketers like Shikhar Dhawan and Stuart Binny, while others like Hokatio Zhimomi and Iqbal Abdullah are known only to a few ardent fans of the game. Players like Abdullah are from villages or small towns and have little or no financial stability and whose parents gave up meals to help them become cricketers. For a few others like Binny, who grew up in big cities with a cricketing culture and clubs, they had challenges of a different kind to face. While the story of Ajit Chandila is a necessary tale of caution, the story of Pravin Tambe is a tale of enjoying and believing in what you do, even if you don’t make it big.

The foreigners included are Ryan Ten Doeschate, a cricketer from the Netherlands and Shakib Al Hasan, the maverick all-rounder from Bangladesh. The author looks into how the two players got into cricket, their careers and the expectations they face, especially in the case of Shakib Al Hasan, where it is the hopes of an entire nation.

Often, when success stories are written, there is a tendency to make it all look easy, reducing the circumstances to a simple narrative, which makes for a good story. However, Shamya Dasgupta’s writing remains honest, and even when he is discusses the future of the game, he remains cautious. His narrative remains simple and unbiased, aptly aided by quotes from the players. The book is well-researched, with the author tracking the career progress of the players for many years.

The most important learning out of the book is that one shouldn’t be misled by the glamour and the bling of the IPL or the star status of international cricketers. As Javagal Srinath points out in the foreword, it takes years of effort to achieve success and that too with luck playing a big part.

Cricket Changed My Life is a book which not only gives a glimpse into the lives of cricketers but also gives an insight into the attitude needed to play a sport. In a country without a big sporting culture, it is necessary for children and parents to realize that sport should be taken up as hobby – to learn, to enjoy and to keep fit. Not everyone can become the next big star, but that doesn’t mean you should stop playing.

By Vishesh Unni

Author: Shamya Dasgupta
225 pages
Price Rs. 250.00
ISBN: 9789351031697
Publisher: Scholastic, 2014
Subject category: Contemporary/Non-fiction/Young Adult
Tags: Sports
Age group: 12+

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