Miss­ing leg stump

An ex­pe­di­tion dur­ing the 2011 World Cup that ends up as a doc­u­men­tary rather than a dis­cov­ery

India Today - - LEISURE - By Ku­nal Prad­han

Ay­oung, de­ter­mined Vaib­hav Vats, in­spired by CLR James’s epochal Be­yond A Bound­ary and Rahul Bhattacharya’s cricket trav­el­ogue Pun­dits from Pak­istan, de­cides to hit the road dur­ing the 2011 World Cup for a per­sonal dis­cov­ery of South Asia.

His book, Tri­umph in Bom­bay: Trav­els Dur­ing The Cricket World Cup, en­cap­su­lates a jour­ney that starts on the five-coach Maitree Ex­press from Kolkata to Dhaka, and ends six glo­ri­ous weeks later at Mum­bai’s Wankhede Sta­dium, via Mo­hali, Ahmed­abad, Colombo, and Sri Lanka’s war-rav­aged north-east­ern city of Trin­co­ma­lee.

The au­thor painstak­ingly meets all the right peo­ple. M.M. Akash, a pro­fes­sor of eco­nom­ics at Dhaka Univer­sity talks to him about the de­mer­its of Mus­lim fun­da­men­tal­ism. ‘C’ and ‘N’, re­spec­tively a Sin­halese jour­nal­ist and a Har­vard-ed­u­cated Tamil lawyer, ar­gue fer­vently at a party in Colombo about whether or not the anti-Tamil ri­ots in 1983 in Sri Lanka should be called a geno­cide. But de­spite th­ese brief snatches in which it rises above the nar­ra­tive, the book is il­lus­tra­tive of how good cricket writ­ing and travel writ­ing are per­haps more oner­ous than they seem from the out­side.

It’s hard not to think about how the de­layed ar­rival of this book threat­ens to ren­der it ir­rel­e­vant. Two-and-a-half years af­ter that heady April evening at the Wankhede, when In­dia lifted the Cup, we are closer to the next edi­tion of the tour­na­ment. In the mean­time, the star of the tour­na­ment, Yu­vraj Singh, has been di­ag­nosed with can­cer, got treated, writ­ten a book about it, and suc­cess­fully made his in­ter­na­tional come­back.

What ran­kles the most is that the au­thor’s in­ter­ac­tions with ran­dom peo­ple he runs into dur­ing his trav­els are more en­gag­ing than the cricket. Talk­ing of the fi­nal ball, which M.S. Dhoni dis­patched for a six to win In­dia the tour­na­ment, the au­thor writes: “It is a mo­ment that even to­day I can recre­ate at will, but the fever of it is some­thing I shall al­ways fail to de­scribe…” Un­for­tu­nately this hon­est self-as­sess­ment holds true for a lot of the match-play writ­ing.

Tri­umph In Bom­bay scores a grind­ing cen­tury for com­mit­ment. It’s a good first ef­fort with the prom­ise of bet­ter things to come, but as the au­thor writes about Kenya’s crawl to 127 for five in 40 overs against Sri Lanka, there are spells when it “seems to be in sta­sis; nei­ther ca­pit­u­lat­ing nor mov­ing for­ward”.

TRI­UMPH IN BOM­BAY: TRAV­ELS DUR­ING THE CRICKET WORLD CUP by Vaib­hav Vats Pen­guin Price: RS 399 Pages: 240

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