More Sunny Days, please!
With VVS Laxman set to release his autobiography, 281 and Beyond, Indian cricket still needs a sequel to Sunil Gavaskar's 1977 memoirs
VVS Laxman has kept himself busy after quitting the game in 2012 — India Premier League team mentoring, commentary, Cricket Association of Bengal batting consultant and now author of the book, 281 and Beyond. Laxman thus joins Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly when it comes to literary pursuits. Rahul Dravid is the only one in that great batting quartet who hasn't written a book, and I am sure he'll do so in the near future.
Laxman's book (co-written by journalist R Kaushik) will hit the stands later this month and I can't wait to read what he has dwelled on. Of course, there would be a lot about the Kolkata Test of 2001 and that particular edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but I'd also be keen to know how much spice he has thrown in. Would there be strong condemnation of him not being picked in the 2003 World Cup side? Also, what actually caused him to announce his retirement even as he was in India's squad to play a series against New Zealand? And, of course, there would be something about controversial coach Greg Chappell, a batsman whom Laxman idolised in his youth. He even had a poster of the Australian great in his room.
At the time of Tendulkar's book launch in 2014, Laxman told the media that Chappell had asked him to open the innings for the 2005-06 tour of the West Indies, but he pointed out that he had decided not to open the batting after not being comfortable with the position in 2000. There could be more on Chappell. Not all interactions with Laxman would provide screaming headlines, but his honesty always stood out.
For example, while interviewing him in Brisbane before the start of the 1999-2000 tri-series in Australia, Laxman stressed on how he should justify the decision to retain him for the limited overs series after his splendid 167 in the Sydney Test. Unfortunately, he didn't hit the high notes in the one-day series (24 runs in six matches). When we spoke again — before Hyderabad's Ranji Trophy final against Mumbai in April 2000 — he was not coy to admit that he let down the team management with his poor showing Down Under. Such examples of acceptance are expected in 281 and Beyond.
While Laxman's labour of love is anticipated, I often wonder why Sunil Gavaskar, the Indian cricket star with most books to his name, hasn't written a sequel to Sunny Days, which was published in 1977. Sure, Gavaskar released Idols in 1983 (profiles of the cricketers he admired) followed by Runs 'n Ruins (an account of the 1983-84 season) and One Day Wonders (the 1985 World Championship of Cricket triumph) apart from a compilation of his columns, but there is no book by him that does justice to his entire cricketing journey.
Sunny Days is an enduring product for its publishers and can still be bought today. It is the best autobiography written by an Indian cricketer and no other book inspired so many cricketers as Sunny Days did. It had everything — detailed descriptions of series/tours, controversy and humour. I don't see many cricketers deciding to mention in their books about a dressing room fight (Farokh Engineer v S Abid Ali during the 1975 World Cup) and comparing it to a Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier world heavyweight boxing bout.
Gavaskar was also highly critical of the spectators at Sabina Park in Kingston in 1976, when they urged their local hero Michael Holding to, "Kill him, maan!" The chapter, Barbarism at Kingston, did not go down well with the West Indians. Gavaskar's chapter Men and Memories was a fascinating insight into his teammates and the great characters they turned out to be.
Agreed, Gavaskar would have to spend a considerable amount of time updating Sunny Days. What would also add to the difficulty is his television commentary duties and of course, there's columns and business to attend to as well. But nothing should be impossible for Gavaskar. Raj Singh Dungarpur, the late former Board of Control for Cricket in India president, wanted Gavaskar to write a book on batting technique and at a function in 1998, expressed the view that the great opener owed a book on the science of batsmanship to world cricket. No opposition batsman scored more Test hundreds than Gavaskar's 13 against the all-conquering West Indies in the 1970s and 1980s, and who better to tell us how that was achieved than the man himself.
Gavaskar wouldn't need a ghost writer and he's never used one, but having a good collaborator would bring this to fruition. It was a friend who urged Gavaskar in 1976 to write Sunny Days since he had jotted down his experiences from various cricket tours. "After returning from my second visit to the West Indies (1976), I jotted down some of my experiences; and a friend suggested, 'Why don't you sit down and complete the whole thing, and write a book?' And, that is how it began," Gavaskar told India Today magazine in 1977. Like a close friend did in 1976, Gavaskar needs to be pushed into writing. Indian cricket needs Sunny Days II, and our young players dare not skip that chapter on the art of batting.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to email@example.com
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