Syed Kirmani has never really been associated with controversy. Hence, it was surprising that the Bangalore-based former India wicketkeeper revealed last week how bitter he is over some missed opportunities during his playing and post-retirement days.
Be that as it may, we now can look forward to his autobiography which promises to be controversial and yes, the “catchy” title which Kirmani assures.
Some books on Indian cricketers published in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
As a book lover, I have always viewed cricketers writing autobiographies as a service to the game. On the other hand, I have been disappointed at those who don’t write books just because the money is not great. However, there should be some decent financial gains for the authors, just enough for them to be induced to pen down their thoughts, speak into a tape recorder or simply indulge in some verbal diarrhea with a ghost writer by their side. Rajan Bala, the late cricket writer reportedly spent just six days with a cricketer of the 1970s to shape his autobiography.
So while Kirmani will fire away on being a victim of discrimination as well as the selectorial snubs in his career, it will be fascinating to read about how he kept to the great spinners of his era, the 1983 World Cup in which he claimed the best ’keeper award and the two centuries he scored for India — both at the Wankhede Stadium in 1979-80 and 1984-85.
I called Syed Abid Ali in Hyderabad to find out more about Kirmani’s angst because the former Test all-rounder’s son Faqeer, who died a few years ago, was married to Kirmani’s daughter. While Abid Ali said he was unaware of Kirmani’s autobiography plans, he agreed with Kirmani who felt he could have debuted for India earlier than the 1975-76 tour of New Zealand and the selectors ought to have considered him in the early 1990s when he was still fit to keep wicket at the highest level.
While we were talking about Kirmani, Abid Ali revealed that he too was serious about writing his own book. Like Kirmani, he has plenty to reveal. He provided me a hint of what will come out when he said that the 0-3 loss to England in the summer of 1974 was because the team was not united enough to perform a repeat of their unprecedented 1971 show. Abid Ali is still blue over being made to pay a share for the excess baggage carried by some players on their return to India in 1974 even though he had conformed to the weight limit. And when he protested about his earning related to that 1974 England tour being halved by the Board who paid for the excess baggage, a Board official shot back, “accept R750 or I will keep this too.”
The release of Kirmani and Abid Ali’s books will hopefully spur other cricketers to tell their side of the story and also inspire young cricketers to make it to the very top of their sport. I reckon that is exactly what Sunil Gavaskar’s Sunny Days did for a lot of players. It’s been nearly 30 years since that book was released at the hands of then captain of India, Bishan Singh Bedi and it is still the most readable of all Indian sporting autobiographies. Rupa & Co published three more books by Gavaskar and a compilation of Gavaskar’s best columns, but Sunny Days has a special place in bookshelves. Rahul Dravid revealed in 2009 how thrilled he was as a nine or 10-year-old when his father presented him a copy of Sunny Days.
Cricketers have to be persuaded and convinced to tell their story in a book form and for this publisher Rupa & Co’s RK Mehra must be credited. Thanks to Mehra’s enthusiasm, we cricket lovers could get an insight into the careers of Gavaskar of course, Syed Mushtaq Ali (Cricket Delightful), Vijay Hazare (Cricket Replayed, A Long Innings), CK Nayudu (a book by his daughter Chandra), EAS Prasanna (One More Over), BS Chandrasekhar (The Winning Hand), Sandeep Patil (Sandy Storm) and Dilip Doshi (Spin Punch)
In his fascinating book, Patrons, Players and the Crowd — the phenomenon of Indian cricket, Dr Richard Cashman wrote in 1980: “The reluctance of most cricketers to write has created the opportunity for journalists and other interested parties to produce cricket books to meet the obvious demand. Much of the cricket writing in India, as a result, has been done by individuals who have not played test cricket and in many instances have not advanced beyond club level.”
That said, it is astounding that India’s greatest cricket writer KN Prabhu never got involved in book projects save Ajit Wadekar’s My Cricketing Years, published in 1973. Prabhu may not have had the time and inclination in his active journalism years although there was a plan to have his 50 portraits of India’s best-known cricketers with caricatures by Austin Coutinho. Unfortunately, it didn’t see the light of day.
It is good to learn about Kirmani and Abid Ali’s literary plans. I hear Wadekar is willing to write another book because there is so much to tell post 1973 and former India opener-turned-coach and curator Sudhir Naik wants to release his autobiography too.
This year could well see these plans come to fruition. There will be some amount of spice, which everyone loves, publishers included, and some wounds reopened. But then, it all adds to the mystique and magic of Indian cricket.
mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org