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Can first-class cricket find a readership?

Can first-class cricket find a readership?
Domestic cricket is a rather dry subject and writing a book on that is pretty similar to bringing together art and popular cinema under a single production. Aakash Chopra,who has opened for India in Tests,has chosen to treat this difficult subject in his very first venture as author. And in cricketing terms,has pretty much pulled off a brave and spectacular debut.

Beyond The Blues is written as the diary of a year in first-class cricket,a year in which Delhi,his team,won the Ranji Trophy. Using the same judicious sense of either leaving the ball outside off-stump or playing the expansive drive to a delivery,Chopra has managed to not only pick the right topics but also maintained the preciseness to keep the reader fresh. In a way,Chopra’s writing is very similar to his batting style — playing straight,in a simple and unpretentious manner,cutting away the frills and yet giving a sophisticated look.

Chopra brings out the different shades of domestic cricket with relatively unknown characters as main protagonists — the story of a first-class cricketer batting with torn gloves or scuffing the ball with a bottle cap to get reverse swing,or how a cricketer offers to pick up an umpire from the railway station in return of favourable decisions,the incompetence of umpires and coach umpire and their irrational thinking,the famous Delhi junket of officials tagging with the team to the practice session when a young Virat Kohli demonstrates to the seniors that all’s in the mind and nothing on the wicket.

Beyond the Blues is a collation of interesting anecdotes,also of teething airline problems that surfaces too often in the book.  But it also candidly dwells on minds not prepared for the T20 bash but with the desire of popularity and fame inside their hearts. The IPL chapters of the book are a fascinating read,especially the talk between Rahul Dravid and Chopra,and discussions between Tatendra Taibu and Chopra over the Kolkata Knight Riders’ campaign. Chopra also dwells on a cricketer’s loyalty between the state and the franchisee and brings out the ever present hope of young cricketers of catching the selectors’ interest,to get that one chance to prove their worth.

Chopra has earned his reputation as one of the most compact,technique-driven batsman in Indian cricket. It is to his credit that he manages to keep the reader interested in reports of first-class tournaments that s/he may not otherwise watch. Some of the most fascinating stories of English cricket have been from the county games. We need more creative efforts like Chopra’s to turn India’s gaze towards the domestic game.