Cricket as the great unifier

Updated: May 19, 2019, 08:29 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

A new illustrated book tries to tell the story of cricket in such a way that you see it less as glam sport, more as breaker of barriers

An illustration from the book
An illustration from the book

Our main goal is to sensitise young people towards heritage," says Tania Kamath, who, with illustrator Swati Namjoshi, is behind the book Flashback: Cricket (Indian Innings and Happenings Over Two Centuries). Kamath, who also runs the non-profit Watering Can Foundation which has published the book, says they picked cricket as a subject as it has national appeal. "We had a done a book called Flashback: Pune, which was all about the city's heritage and it did well with young people. So, we decided to take on cricket, and unearth why are all of us fascinated with it. It took us 18 months, and we found some interesting stuff," says Kamath.

Young children who met CD Gopinath, the sole surviving member of the team that won the first Test match ever in Indian history
Young children who met CD Gopinath, the sole surviving member of the team that won the first Test match ever in Indian history

The book is about the origins of the sport in India, of the role of women in the sport, how it spread across the country, how Bombay became a hub, and how the advent of the television changed the sport. All the text is interspersed with illustrations - some imagined, some based on real pictures. Their research included not only talking to cricket experts and specialists but also young children from Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Pune.

Swati Namjoshi
Swati Namjoshi

"For example, the kids in Chennai met CD Gopinath, who at 87, was the sole surviving member of the team that won the first Test match ever in Indian history. It was played against England. We then included all those moments in the book," says Kamath.


There are also some lesser known,but fascinating, nuggets about how the game evolved. "So, the term for the denim staple, dungaree, comes from Dongri, where the workers used to wear it. When the American civil war happened and their cotton trade was interrupted, the Europeans came to Bombay for cotton. And cricket followed. So in a way, cotton trade caused the game to grow." They also point out towards a time when women in India used to play the game in saris. "The whole aim of the book is to make sure we don't just think of cricket as a glamorous sport. In those times, it was a sport that broke social barriers, and spread camaraderie. It was a super tool to build relationships between the colonised and the coloniser. Nobody knows that anymore. So, all we hope is that the spirit of what it used to be seeps into the sport and its image today."

Flashback: Cricket is available on Amazon and is priced at Rs 300

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