Chances are you haven’t heard of cricketer-author Ashwath Aiyappa. He played the game at the first-division club level in Mumbai and Bangalore for over a decade. Rahul Dravid believes Ashwath could have been a good mentor to young cricketers.
Ashwath died last April. He was in his native Coorg during a break in the cricket season and after completing the draft of his first book, to vote in the Lok Sabha election. His brother Akhil fell into a reservoir, and was caught in a fishing net. Ashwath jumped in to rescue Akhil, but both brothers drowned.
Ashwath was 30. The book, When God Bowls A Googly, was launched by Ashwath’s parents Raghu and Anitha in Bangalore last month.
Ashwath’s book explores the psychological side of sport — chiefly the fear of failure, how to overcome it, and the pursuit of happiness. Ashwath has written about his own experience of struggling to break into the big league as a wicketkeeper batsman, and the frustration of not meeting the standards he had set for himself.
Over the years that he played, Ashwath built up a reputation for being a dedicated cricketer. Among his coaches were former India medium-pacer Abey Kuruvilla and former India batsman Brijesh Patel.
Will benefit kids: Dravid
Dravid, who has read Ashwath’s book, believes it is insightful and unique. “There have been books written by Test cricketers and Ranji Trophy players about their cricketing journeys but Ashwath tells his story from the point of view of a first-division club cricketer. Not much has been written about club-level cricketers, who have not been able to progress to the next level. I think it is a very good book, which is simply written and will benefit a lot of youngsters,” Dravid said.
Though Ashwath and Dravid never met, the former India skipper identifies with parts of Ashwath’s cricketing journey. “Trying to find a balance between cricket and academics as a youngster, the eagerness to progress to the next level, and the constant quest to improve and the related struggles, are some of the aspects I relate to in the book,” Dravid said.
Ashwath had emailed the batting legend about the book early last year and sent him a copy. Dravid sent him his feedback, which appears as a blurb on the cover.
“He was my junior, so I never got a chance to meet him but I had heard of him as we had played for the same club (Bangalore United Cricket Club). He had mailed me and asked if I could be at his book launch function, and I had said I would. This was around the time of the last edition of the Indian Premier League,” Dravid recalled.
But only a few days later, Dravid heard about Ashwath’s passing away. “It is a shame really. I thought he was someone who could have been a good mentor.”
Ashwath, who had a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, sold his stake in the software company that he had co-founded to get back to playing full-time at the age of 26. He also had made Mumbai his second home.
Roughing it out
Kuruvilla, director of the Navi Mumbai-based D Y Patil Sports Academy — Ashwath represented its club and corporate teams — believes that the wicketkeeper batsman had reconciled to the fact that he had achieved all he could have, and hence decided to write the book.
“He was a nice boy and a dedicated and hardworking cricketer. He moved to Mumbai to pursue his cricket, and although he was from a well-off family, he was prepared to rough it out. He rented a small room in Airoli (Navi Mumbai) and worked really hard,” Kuruvilla said.
“It is unfortunate that he passed away so young, but he has left behind a priceless guide in the form of the book.”