The author of 37 books spoke about why India will remain at the helm of the sport for many years to come, at a Sharjah International Book Fair 2020 online session
Since he was 5 years old, Mihir Bose has been hooked on cricket, after witnessing a test match in 1951 between India and England at the Brabourne Stadium in erstwhile Bombay, now Mumbai, from an apartment building opposite the stadium.
It is evident in his exhaustive account of the growth of cricket in India in The Nine Waves: The Extraordinary Story of Indian Cricket, published in 2019. “The growth of Indian cricket is indeed a compelling story and runs concurrently with the rise of India, from colonial serf to an independent nation to the current times of huge political and social changes,” said the award-winning journalist at a Sharjah International Book Fair 2020 session yesterday on the ‘Sharjah Reads’ virtual platform.
Bose spoke of the defining day when Indian cricket came of age – August 24, 1971, when under the captaincy of Ajit L. Wadekar, India won their first Test match against England in England – “The day an elephant was paraded around the Oval!”
“India’s cricket history has been like a rollercoaster ride, from its early days in the time of the British Raj to the present-day period dominated by multi-million deals spurred by the Indian Premier League (IPL),” he pointed out. “Indeed, so powerful has it become that a domestic Indian cricket tournament means more to international cricket than a World Cup”.
The irony is that the 20-over game was an English invention that the Indians first shunned, said Bose. Then the secretary of the Indian cricket board initially refused to take part in the first T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007, snorting in derision: “What next, five overs a side cricket match!”
India reluctantly send a side to South Africa with its greatest star Sachin Tendulkar dropping out. But the Indian team led by rookie captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni unexpectedly won the tournament. The T20 triumph in South Africa triggered a revolution not only in India but also world cricket.
“In a reversal of this, when IPL was launched in 2008, English cricket boffins scoffed at it. However, their efforts to beat IPL proved a disaster and English cricket has long since bowed to the power of IPL. So, despite the fact that IPL overlaps with the English cricket season, their best players are allowed to miss part of the season to participate in this great Indian gold mine!” narrated Bose.
“While its money power is impressive, IPL is more valuable for the impact it has had on the world of cricket,” said Bose, touching upon the way cricket evolved in India, from a game that its citizens were not allowed to play by their British masters to being invited to play in England in the 1950 and 1960s to commanding respect across cricketing nations since its 1983 victory at the World Cup.
Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), SIBF 2020 concludes on November 14. Being held under the theme, ‘The World Reads from Sharjah’, the 39th edition has adopted a fully digital format to host its cultural programme of 64 unique events, which are being streamed on SBA’s virtual platform over the 11 days of the fair.