RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR With Peter
Cricket Boulevard is a skilfully
executed, tenderly constructed, book: a literary celebration
of a century of cricket, like no other work. It has narrative
and character study blended in an eminently readable fashion.
It not only manages to pervade the essential of the essentials
of some of crickets greatest players -- from Dr
W G Grace to Steve Waugh; from Sir Don Bradman to Sachin Tendulkar;
from Sir Learie Constantine to Kapil Dev; from Ray Lindwall
to Wasim Akram; and, from Clarrie Grimmett to Muttiah Muralitharan
-- but, also brings to life a weighty and effulgent collage.
More than an encapsulated grandeur of individual brilliance,
or cricketing chemistry, of each player, Cricket Boulevard
explores not only the many-resplendent delights of cricket,
but also delineates a deftly woven canvas of the games
scientific foundation, art and grammar -- of its players
phenomenal exploits, acts of courage, grandeur, and shortfall.
A journey through nostalgia, and a living monument to a philosophy,
it is, in sum, a collectors edition no avid fan of the
game can afford to miss.
Says noted scholar and writer, Dr Ramachandra Guha,
PhD: Cricket Boulevard is suffused with knowledge
and love of the game
[And] its truly impressive.
E X C E R P T S : Cricket's
It goes without saying that cricketing
contexts are boundless means -- not arbitrary constructions.
They are, in more ways than one, nested truths anchored in
wider and deeper realities, where each of those wholes are
parts of other wholes -- an artwork that more than highlights
a particular context. Which also means that the interpretation
of a cricketing artwork is not only the evocation, but also
elucidation of the accentuated, necessary link, and a subliminal
rendition -- one that involves a careful look at the total
web of evidence.
Any understanding of a cricketing artwork,
therefore, would mean intrinsically, or hermeneutically, to
enter, as far as possible, the contents determining the art.
In other words, it is a fusion of horizons -- the emergence
of cricket as one whole -- in which the understanding
of a work of art, of every great player, is simultaneously
a process of self-understanding, and even liberating in its
final effect. Not so simple, though. You got it right. To
understand such a temple of art and science, one must, to
some degree, enter its inner precincts, stretch boundaries
and, thus, grow in the process. Reason: the fusion of such
horizons is a broadening of self.
The immanence is obvious. When one directly
views a legend called Dr W G Grace, who was born on July 18,
1848, one is consciously reminded of what all superior art
has in common -- the capacity to, quite simply, take your
breath away. It is something that makes you inwardly gasp,
for a few seconds, when the art first hits you, or enters
your being. More so, because Grace lived in a different time
capsule -- one that did not belong to TV razzamatazz.
Result: one is stunned to connecting picture frames of the
old with the modern. But, what is remarkable is -- you
are now open to perceptions that you had not seen before.
That's Grace's magic -- his cricket seeps into your pores
gently. Slowly. Maybe, just a little; maybe, a great deal.
But, the effect will be hypnotic. You are changed, thanks
to the games very own gamut of awareness -- a wholeheartedly
accepted existence of not just figures in terms of runs scored,
but also its soul and spirit.
Grace was the maker of modern batting.
A revolutionary, Grace held conventional wisdom by the beard.
His own. He turned batting into an art -- an accomplishment
into a science. He developed the all-important criterion of
style. In so doing, he also founded the very refined theory
of forward- and back-play, where both were of equal importance.
Yet, he placed reliance on neither. He was, at his zenith,
the finest player born, or unborn. As the immortal K S Ranjitsinhji,
the Prince of Batting, put it so succinctly: He [Grace]
turned the old one-string instrument into a many-chorded lyre.
For more than forty years, Grace was the
greatest player. He was also the dominant force in thirty
of them. He still is -- thanks to the breadth of his long
career, and cogent pre-eminence in his time, and beyond, as
Grace, the physician, who used the willow with as much skill
as the stethoscope. While its true that many batsmen
have surpassed his total of 126 first-class centuries, none
of them has been so venerated from his playing days till today
-- the age of instant cricket, and technological nirvana.
When Grace entered first-class cricket,
in 1865, the game was a shadowy pursuit for the best players,
who had enough USP, for getting as much money as possible
out of it. Whats more, cricket was just a provincial
game -- not a prospect with international brand equity.
But, by the time Grace hung up his boots, in 1908, the year
the one and the only Sir Don Bradman was born, it was a national
sport -- a sport that had brought countries together, and
spread an affectionate passion even in the usually
unsentimental, colonialist Englishmen.
Grace scored runs against bowlers on every
conceivable type of wicket, and on a host of varying surfaces.
Wickets, in Graces early days, were dangerous. Not for
Grace, who faced the roughest of pace bowlers, and the highly
skilled of spin bowlers, with both élan and efficiency.
As he moved up his own ladder of cricketing success, Grace
amassed seasonal figures of rare consistency and supremacy
with as much ease as Indian violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman on
the stringed instrument
In the decade between 1871 and
1880, for instance, Grace averaged 49. That his nearest rival
averaged just 26 wasn't passé; it was a powerful statement
on Grace's consummate finesse, and run-making ability. Not
only that. Grace also scalped 1,174 wickets. And, whats
most amazing, Grace topped the batting averages -- for
11 out of the 14 seasons betwixt 1866 and 1879. In 1871, Grace
compiled 2,739 runs, at an average of 78.25; his runner-up totalled 1,068 at a measly 25.
What made Grace a remarkable batsman was
his redoubtable faith in the basics of the game. The virtue
of a straight bat, for him, was akin to the purity of every
musical note to Mozart, or the precise, correct word to Shakespeare.
He, quite simply, played the right stroke to the right ball
in a manner born. Grace's stance was upright. His backlift
was high, and he brought into every stroke an astonishingly
quick repartee. The faster the bowler, the more delighted
he was. Grace loved to smash the ball to pulp through the
covers, or straight drive it past the hapless bowler. No shot
is as disheartening for a bowler as the drive -- and,
Grace cultivated the stroke to perfection.
Grace often said that games arent
won by leaving the ball alone. He hated defensive strokes,
because he thought you can only get three off em.
And, so he hit the ball as powerfully as he possibly could,
with stunning effect. His mercurial stroke play was an extension
of his personality -- full of zest and qualified self-assurance.
When he advanced in age, Grace had a thickening waistline,
all right. But, when it came to footwork he was nimble and
omnipotent. His placement was sound -- like a snooker
player. He found gaps quite easily, in the field, with a great
deal of clinical nonchalance.
As his days in the sun progressed, Grace
was but a far cry from the young stripling --a colt with
an electrical enthusiasm for the game. So, the image that
is commonplace of Grace today is his massive, bearded countenance
-- a grizzly bear, or a remotely comical figure, for a
generation long used to sleek, purely athletic, lissome sporting
heroes. Yes, the bat, in Graces hands, looks like a
childs first ever willow, not to speak of those enormous
feet so transfixed at the crease. They are allegories that
do not look like taking the attack to the bowler. But, Grace
was Grace. Once the bowler had let go the ball from his hands,
Grace would be a transformed man. Result: viola! Add
to that Grace's amazing stamina, and colossal strength, and
you have one great epic -- Grace's own -- ever written,
or put into composition in the games wondrous script.
Graces value was just not confined
to the sports field. It extended beyond not just in
terms of waves of hysteria of people who wanted to watch him
play, but also financial productivity. Grace knew his price.
He was also cognisant of how hard a bargain he could drive.
In todays world, Grace would have been great copy for
cricket writers, thanks to his idiosyncrasies and sense of
mirth. More so, because opinion is divided on Grace's gentlemanly
qualities -- on whether he cheated and bent rules to suit
himself. To cull an example. Grace, who did not like fast
bowling, in his later years, once nicked a quickish delivery
from a young paceman, Neville Knox. As the fielding side was
cock-a-hoop with his dismissal, Grace stood his ground. He
rubbed his arm, and said: I didnt come here for
nothing; nor did all these spectators. Play on!
The sheer multiplicity of Graces
anecdotes lends credence to Graces larger-than-life
image. He was a great character, doubtless. Maybe, he lacked
pure intellectual fibre -- an esoteric element of air.
But, what was most extraordinary was his sense of dedication
to both cricket and his patients -- two vastly divergent
fields with nothing in common, so to say. Not that Grace was
a rigid professional, a hard man to barter with. You wouldnt
believe it. Grace often gave his services free to the poor
-- without holding anything back.
Grace was an instinctive player. He was
forgetful too. More than anything else, he was a winsome soul
-- a man who loved practical jokes. What he hated most
was reading books. It did not affect him at all -- this
accumulation of knowledge sort of a thing. He also despised
war. The First World War troubled him greatly. He was shattered
to think of the idea of how his fellow English cricketers
were being butchered in France. Yet, he wrote a famous letter
to Sportsman magazine urging cricketers to join the
ASAP. It showed his patriotic fervour --
the greatest affection for the country of his birth.
Graces keen eyesight was his keynote
to success. He chiselled the pull shot like no other player
of his time. Grace was a great innovator and a great all-rounder
-- all rolled into one. His Test average may not do him
justice, all right, nor does his first-class percentage of
32.29 and 40.68, respectively. But, they demonstrate one inescapable
pointer: Grace, as Grace can be -- an appearance of delicacy,
the stamp of a champion. Heres Grace's fact-file: Tests
-- 22; innings 36; runs 1,098; highest 170; 100s 2; 50s
5; first-class cricket -- matches 872; innings 1,483;
runs 54,518; highest 344; 100s 126. You dont judge a
player just in terms of statistical excellence -- theres
something else called ingenuity thats more important.
Right? Grace had that luminous element -- all his very
That was also his greatness -- a vibrant
expansion of his self, belief, method, and conviction of thought,
and emotion in motion. Of the bat meeting the ball on its
own terms -- simply, sensibly, and without balderdash.
Of a blending of the serious with the pleasing -- one
that has the wherewithal to please everyone. A force that
carries the seed of cricket as all-encompassing -- the
most diligent and learned of all sport. Of poetry that springs
not from technique alone, but from a kind of Platonian divine
The rest, as the cliché goes, is
history -- a part of cricketing folklore, and enterprise.
It also sums up Grace, the very fountain-head of cricket renaissance.
A player, like no other, who carried nothing else, but his
originality to a world beyond space and time.
Who Influenced The World
Peter Murray With RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR
coffee-table book encapsulates 60 great people who helped create a new world over the past hundred years --
some well remembered, and some forgotten.
People Who Influenced The World Over The Past 100
Years, put simply, documents world leaders, artists
and entertainers, scientists and thinkers, heroes and
icons, as well as revolutionaries and dictators
you name them!
A grand, encyclopaedic volume
-- a collector's edition like no other.