Review – “Selection Day” by Aravind Adiga
I belong to the Indian populace, whose favorite sport inevitably happens to be cricket. Even in the era of T20s, test cricket (albeit selective tours/opponents/locales) beckons my latent interest and somewhere in my rooted sub-consciousness it still retains that romantic appeal, which the shorter versions are bereft of. So of course it is a given that any form of media publication (including movies) related to cricket would have my instant attention, of course the bounce rate on my part would depend on the content and my level of engagement with it.
While I was on my daily sojourn on the amazon website to scout for some nice books and to add to the shopping cart, I happened to stumble across this particular title. Aravind Adiga being an instant sensation few years back, due to his Man Booker prize on his first publication of course drew my attention. The title and the illustration on the cover page of the book piqued my interest. Well well, a seemingly great book on the pursuit of cricket in India. The synopsis clicked and I completed the check-out process.
The book seemed to be bulky which was ok, as long as it was going to satisfy my reading pleasures. I started on the book on Friday night and was soon immersed in it. It was the tale of the cricketing journey of 2 brothers, who hailed from Kannada belt in Western ghats. The elder brother Radha seemed born for cricketing greatness, with inbuilt talent and single minded dedication. The younger brother was a more recalcitrant version and wanted to pursuit a career in forensics and loved science in school.
The father of the kids played a major role in their lives and being a single father, had a single minded devotion to his kids playing in the Mumbai Ranji team and thereafter Indian squad. He represents the typical parent we see or hear about in our daily lives, whose single goal in life is to push the seemingly talented kids and closely monitor their every single aspect of life so that there is no scope for any distraction which would upset the so well thought out path to cricketing glory and the attached perks which would enhance the financial status of the poor family.
From the notes of the author, it seems it took 5 years worth of detailed research including conversations with Cricket historians like Ramachandra Guha to complete this book. Actually it is very evident throughout the book.
Disclaimer – The book does not cover a movie-esque happy ending of aspiring cricketers, struggling with poverty and the single minded devotion of a dominating father, rather it is a realistic version of the talented cricketers we see or hear of. The book is much much more. It certainly does have a strong dose of cricket in its DNA, but it delves into each and every related aspect, from covering the cricketing season in Mumbai to the various local competitions, down to the pitch preparation cycles and the typical characters which we can never miss…the talent scout, an aging and brusque mentor, several unscrupulous characters looking to make a quick buck and of course the associated super ambitious parents who make the journey onerous and possibly render it a sure recipe ripe for disaster.
All in all it is an interesting story, which takes the not-so-regular path and covers all the related aspects associated with the arduous journey each and every aspiring cricketer from the country’s hinterlands or slums or middle class belt inevitably has to get baptized by. The book is highly recommended for all cricket lovers.
Rating – 3.5/5.