CRICKET FOR THE CROCODILE

Reviewed by Maegan Dobson Sippy

Cricket for the Crocodile has everything you’d expect from a Ruskin Bond story: endearing characters, first-class storytelling, and a good dollop of nostalgia. The story, though, is not a new one. I’d first come across it as part of Ranji’s Wonderful Bat & Other Stories (Penguin Books, 2015), but a quick glance at the title page shows that it was first published in the UK in 1986 as part of an anthology.

There’s nothing wrong with repackaging and adding longevity to great writing, but I must admit that I was a little disappointed to have already encountered this story in a book published barely a year ago. This initial disappointment, though, was largely mitigated by the fact that this edition is well-produced, with new illustrations by Mihir Joglekar. I’m not usually a massive fan of digital style illustrations, but the toned-down colour palette has been carefully chosen and works well with the text, while the crocodile is wonderfully expressive throughout – interestingly, far more so than the human characters.

The fact that it is now a standalone chapter book will certainly broaden its appeal. I can imagine an early reader who would perhaps struggle with something longer (but is looking for an absorbing tale) getting great satisfaction from the fact that she has ‘read a whole book’, rather than a story in a larger book.

A second problem with republishing older work is that while some aspects are gloriously nostalgic, other things have moved with the times, meaning that certain parts of this story now jar. My biggest problem was in the treatment of the crocodile, and what it might suggest to children about the right way to interact with animals. While the children respectfully address the crocodile as “Nakoo-ji”, they also throw stones (and then a large cricket ball) at it when they find it sunbathing on their wicket. The pinnacle of the story, where the crocodile is left for several weeks with a “cot” attached to his back, also made me slightly uneasy.

That said, there are other aspects of the story that I loved. Characteristically, Ruskin Bond’s characters are both endearing and believable, and the tale is wonderfully child-centric, with the voices of the young boys coming across as entirely believable: “I’m going to be a Test cricketer when I grow up,” Ranji tells his mother on the opening page, when asked to prepare for his exams. “Of what use will maths be to me?” The way that the adults are depicted is also wonderful – the fathers are “terrible” on the cricket pitch, but are tolerated by the children because “they helped to provide bats and balls and pocket money.”

The language is simple, but there are dashes of humour, and the tale builds up to a satisfying crescendo, as the crocodile creeps ever closer to the cricket pitch, before eventually disrupting proceedings. Young fans of the game are also sure to appreciate the level of detail, with the score being meticulously relayed throughout the narrative.

While this is not a new tale and harks back to a different way of life, this series of well-designed, full-colour versions of Ruskin Bond stories are a good way for a new generation of children to discover his writing. For that reason, I’m glad that this story has found a new avatar.


About the Book

  • Author
  • Ruskin Bond
  • Year
  • 2016
  • Publisher
  • Katha
  • Language
  • English
  • Awards
  • Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit
  • Age Group
  • 7+

 

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