Out of the Blue
Rs 299 pp 262
They were not even perceived as underdogs. In the 2010-11 cricket season, unfancied Rajasthan moved up 27 places to win the Ranji Trophy, the most coveted first class tournament in the country.
Despite this, whenever the wise men of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have sat down to shortlist the chosen few to wear the India cap ever since, not one of the triumphant Ranji bunch has been a part of the selectors scheme of things.
Therefore, when Aakash Chopra, the articulate former India opener, who was part of the winning outfit, chooses to shine a light on Indian crickets most under-rated team, aficionados are bound to be interested. Chopras Out of the Blue: Rajasthans Road to the Ranji Trophy is more than a chronicle of how a bunch of domestic cricketers turned giant-killers. It includes a series of compassionate portraits of cricketers on the margin whose worlds are far removed from the razzmatazz of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Chopra keeps an objective distance from this spunky band of boys, taking us into the bylanes of rural Rajasthan where they first acquired the fire in the belly. We learn of a pace bowler from Behita who travels ticketless for 30 hours to chase his dream of playing for India. An opening batsman from Udaipur who comes out to bat a day after burying his two-month-old daughter. Till the time they get their 30 days of fame with an IPL contract, many of Indias small town cricketers remain unsung. Many of them had to dig deep to get privileges that a cricketer takes for granted in a metropolis.
Out of the Blue also chronicles Chopras quest to find his feet after he was discarded by Delhi, his home state, and came to know of his axing on the sports pages of a newspaper. Chopra was one of the three professionals roped in by the Rajasthan cricket board.
The portraits of these cricketers as young men make for engaging sessions of the book. Chopras style is easy and the book is structured into mini profiles interspersed with match reports. One little quibble: After the few chapters, the format of Out of the Blue becomes a tad monotonous: match situation, player profile, coming of age legend and exploits on the field. On this count, I found Chopras first book Beyond the Blues: A cricket season like no other, more engaging.