Tales behind fame

Tales behind fame

Guts & glory

 Makarand Waingankar
Jaico 2015, pp 416
Rs. 595

It was a singularly featureless day of cricket in Moti Bagh stadium, Baroda. The kind you will invariably encounter while covering the Indian domestic cricket. Driving away the tedium was Makarand Waingankar with stories from on and off the cricket field, of his interactions with cricketers ranging from Vijay Hazare to Yuvraj Singh. They were funny. And they were informative too, throwing light on the characters of some players you only have heard about or watched on the telly.

So, the expectations were quite high once I began the trip through Waingankar’s Guts & Glory, where he has pieced together tales of 26 cricketers who have a permanent place in the top perches of Indian cricket history. The book didn’t strike as a literary marvel like Rohit Brijnath’s work on Abhinav Bindra — A Shot At History.

But Guts & Glory’s purpose is different. It’s intent is to tell you some lesser-known anecdotes and allow you to have a deep look into the personality of cricketers — past and present. Waingankar succeeds in this effort to a good extent. There’s no denying his awareness about Indian domestic cricket and proximity to some of the legends from Mumbai and Karnataka. It shows in his portrayal of players such as Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Sunil Gavsakar, MAK Pataudi, Bishen Singh Bedi, EAS Prasanna, B S Chandrasekhar.

However, the chapters on new-age cricketers like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, M S Dhoni et al seems to have been written in a hurry. Lack of clarity and some silly errors haunt those parts. In that sense, the author should have pinned his concentration on older-generation cricketers and brought forth some more stories about them.

The tales Waingankar tells about the great Indian spin trinity (to borrow a term from Ramachandra Guha) were quite fascinating. The extraordinary duel between Prasanna and Australian batsman Ian Chappell in the Bombay Test (1968) makes for interesting reading. It gives an insight into the ways of one of India’s finest ever spinners. In the same breath, Waingankar also stresses on the importance of having a captain who is confident of his bowlers.

Pataudi junior was just that. Through various incidents, Waingankar presents the many sides of one of the classiest Indian cricketers for the readers — a shrewd captain, fearless batsman, canny leader, an urbane person off the field, and above all, witty. One of the English journalists posed a rather sensitive question to ‘Tiger — “When did you feel you could bat with one eye?” and pat came the reply, “When I saw the English attack, Jim.”

It was a very personal query that might have put off many others, but Pataudi dealt it with ease and comfort. These are stories that would amuse you, but then there are certain other sections in the book that will make you realise that cricket is not just about money and glory. The sport demands immense sacrifices if you want to play at the highest level. Kapil offers the perfect example.

Waingankar casts his eye back to a time when Kapil was still miles away from being the ‘Haryana Hurricane’, the scourge of batsmen around the world. He was no legend then. He was not one of the greatest all-rounders in the history of cricket then. He was just an aspiring cricketer with a mop of curly hair and a toothy smile.

He was quite appalled when Keki Tarapore, the then secretary of the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, announced that the players would be given only two chapatis and a bowl of dal after one full day of training. “I am a fast bowler and I need more food,” was Kapil’s reply. Of course, his demand was not met and Tarapore even sneered at him saying, “There are no fast bowlers in India.” That moment, Kapil decided that he wanted to be the best fast bowler in India, and rest, as they say, is history.

History, then, appears in front of you in this book through anecdotes, memories of game’s greats like Greg Chappell and plain narrative. Austin Coutinho’s brilliant caricatures add to the experience of the book that would easily qualify for a quick and pleasant read rather than a gripping drama.

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