"… I can't stay away from the ground. I have to be there. I'll die if I can't go to the ground every day."
Reading Vikramjeet Malik's words, I cried. Yeah, boys do cry; more so in India in matters cricketing.No matter which side of the fence you are on — Tests, ODIs or T20s — the IPL is here to stay. Intended or otherwise, Shamya Dasgupta has made a case for why cricket and Indian cricketers need the domestic T20 league.
It's not about the stars we can't get enough of. This one is about the other lights in the constellation, which inevitably has black holes.
Domestic cricket and IPL are the canvas for the up-and-comers, those on the fringes and some viewed as washed out. Make no mistake, they need the IPL, which on the other hand can do with just stars — even the struggling ones.
Cricket Changed My Life captures the pretty pictures, the heartbreaks and some of the most making-peace-with-life moments of those working this canvas.
Does Kamran Khan ring a bell? He is that freaky left-arm fast bowler who caught the eye of Rajasthan Royals and Shane Warne. He hit the headlines for the right reasons, then for suspect action and slipped into obscurity double quick.
Who is he, where is he from, what is happening to him these days? There is little patience for those going off the radar. Sports journalist Dasgupta, however, has not let go of the story of this woodcutter's son from Ghosi village in Mhow near Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.
How about a peek into the heart and art of Pravin Tambe? Cricket fans would probably be in love with the story of the rookie who got a chance to showcase his cricket at the age of 42 (Rajasthan Royals, again). Cricket is the love of his life, but he is a realist too.
This book tells you why Tambe is a hero — for his parents, his siblings, his wife and his children, and perhaps us too.
Dasgupta has spoken of 17 other cricketers including Shikhar Dhawan, who is followed a chapter down the pages by Hokaito Zhimomi, the first man from Nagaland to play first-class cricket (not for his state, though).
There is also a cautionary tale in Ajit Chandila; a spinner whose career has taken a turn for the worse owing to the spot-fixing scandal.
Do not make the mistake of taking their journeys and sacrifices (from their families as well) as sob stories. Professional cricket is ruthless and all these players know it.
It is Dasgupta's decision to write about them the way he has. The offering is straight and there are no bent-arm doosras. Many of those profiled are in the IPL this season. You'll probably look at them just that little more closely.
Read, get emotional, be inspired.
(Cricket Changed My Life, Author: Shamya Dasgupta, Publisher: Scholastic, M.R.P.: Rs. 250)