I am definitely not a cricket tragic – only one test match attended in my youth. However, it is impossible to live in our environment without some awareness of the game and its surrounding pressures. It is less likely that one would be aware of the matching Indian context (except perhaps for the corrupting role of gambling). This novel is set in the cricket mad world of Mumbai where, apparently as an alternative (or adjunct) to sharp business dealing, the world of cricket is seen by many as a way forward in a very tough world. Two boys (Radha, the elder and Manu, the younger) are raised (a very light word to describe the near insane regimen of their father) to be the best and second best batsmen in the world. They are quite physically dissimilar.
The reader is confronted with a lot of detail about persons and places in this restricted world but this can be passed over lightly – there must be parallels in our local scene. More interesting are the insights we are given into the contemporary world of young Indian boys (sorry ladies, hardly a mention) and young men which was interesting to compare and contrast with our own and international trends. Most interesting is the unfolding narrative and psychology of the two as they deal with the pressures that surround them and emerge from within their own developmental experiences.
There is a deal of writing not dissimilar to Christos Tsolkas in ‘Barracuda’ when he writes out the immersive experience of swimming only here the focus is on the business of batting. You can take or leave this more or less as it strikes you. I probably speed read it.
As one might expect, there are snakes and ladders in the careers of the two boys in the three worlds of school, cricket and sex (pace Warne). There are also differences in that one emerges as possibly (probably) gay and has to deal not only with that possibility in his emotional life but also its possible consequences for his cricketing career (India is not noted for high tolerance of homosexuality in public figures).
While I can say I enjoyed some of the more extreme characterisations of some of the nuttier people in the cricket world and I was able to ‘go with the flow’ with regard to the details of cricketing, I really did enjoy the insights into Manju’s tortured world. This is also not a tale that comes to anything like a neat fairy-tale conclusion. Rather its is a little disturbing but quite satisfying.
It has my recommendation