Well what else do you expect from a book that combines 2 of my favorites: History and Cricket. Ramachandra Guha’s A Corner of a Foreign Field combines both history and cricket by exploring the history of cricket in India.
Most books on cricket focus on the numbers and the matches exclusively making them a statistician and history buff’s delight. Guha focuses more on the stories and characters that shaped Indian cricket. Of course, what good would a book on cricket be without a focus on cricket matches. Guha includes his share of matches but then you are made very much aware that matches are part of the history that he is weaving and while it is an important part, it is not the only focus on the book.
Simply put, Indian cricket is analyzed in this book through the prism of society, religion, the freedom struggle and the nation-identity question. Starting with an untouchable who is allowed to play cricket on account of his sheer talent to the Mumbai Quadrangular (which later becomes the Pentangular) to Mahatma Gandhi’s opposition to staging the Quadrangular when India was fighting for its freedom, this book captures the essence that has shaped Indian cricket, while at the same time analyzing the effect cricket had on various facets of India. Also covered in the book is the rising clout of the sub-continent as well as the nationalistic feeling that cricket invokes (as well as the hooliganism that erupts) between Indians & Pakistanis, not just in their own countries but also in places like England.
Extensively researched and with lots of anecdotes, it is a marvelous read. Some of the research are through books that were written in 1890s, while others are through newspaper reports from early 1900s. Guha’s writing style is engaging and keeps the reader entertained throughout. The book is loaded with interesting facts and trivia and is definitely, the sort of book while entertaining you also makes you reflect back and think. All in all, a must read for all cricket buffs.
Rating – 10/10
PS: A slight digression, talking of history, I came across a quote from Karl Marx which was profoundly strong ” History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce”