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How Dhoni’s Helicopter Shot Changed the Game of Sports Governance

Sports governance (Yes, it’s a thing!) is just not a peripheral concern; it holds equal importance as the sport itself. In his latest book, Boundary Lab, author Nandan Kamath sheds light on the intricate subject. Kamath cracks open the world of sports as a testing ground for societal change.  Discover how rules, markets, and morals are experimented with and refined on the field, shaping our society.

Read this excerpt to know more.

 

 

Boundary Lab
Boundary Lab || Nandan Kamath

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Imagine a world in which certain moves and techniques, once displayed or published, could be locked up and controlled for extended periods by individual athletes who were the first to think of or express them. What if Dhoni could decide whether, who and when another cricketer could play the helicopter shot?

Any use would require a licence from Dhoni. Besides being a logistical nightmare, it would alter the competitive balance of many sports by taking parts of the vocabulary out of use or raising their price. Participants may also end up handcuffed, unable to operate instinctively, driven by their muscle memory.

 

A batter who doesn’t have Dhoni’s permission to play the helicopter shot could play other shots to the same ball. However, the control of the owner over a unique move could be determinative in other sports that are premised on a single effort rather than extended and multiple segments of play. For instance, the high jump competition would be heavily skewed if Fosbury was the only one allowed to use his move for two decades. Competition results would be more predictable and, as a result, less engaging for participants and spectators.

 

Despite these complexities, some believe that it is appropriate and fitting to incentivize sports creators or inventors. They argue that there are remedies available to reward the athlete for their ingenuity while keeping the move in use by everyone. If Dhoni owned the helicopter shot, the BCCI could license the move from him in a deal that allowed anyone to use it in the IPL.

 

Of course, this would come with costs that the system must bear and will, eventually, pass on to its participants. There are also transaction costs involved, with licences to be negotiated. Battles in conference rooms will precede those on the playing field. Infringements would have to be policed across amateur and professional sport—hardly an attractive proposition for anyone other than player agents and lawyers!

 

If certain moves are taken out of play or made exclusive, learning is hampered. So is improvement and further innovation of such techniques and methods. Sport is learnt at every level of the talent pyramid through observation and emulation. School kids learn movement from physical education teachers. These teachers may have played sport at some level or might teach their wards using a vocabulary of movement passed on to them from a previous generation. Aspiring youngsters learn sports technique in camps from coaches who have often been athletes themselves. Elite athletes learn from certified coaches trained by the system, and from peers and competitors.

 

The Kenyan athlete Julius Yego was unable to find a coach who could teach him to throw the javelin, so instead, he learnt how to do this by watching YouTube videos. He went on to become African, Commonwealth and World Champion and won silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Google him and you’ll find his nickname—Mr YouTube.

 

Creativity at any rung of the pyramid quickly reverberates through the system. It is learnt, aped, modified and improved upon.

 

In many ways, Dhoni’s helicopter shot has its origin in a long line of prior ways of doing so—Azharuddin and VVS Laxman’s on drives, Ravi Shastri’s chapati shot, Kapil Dev’s Natraj shot and Ranjitsinhji’s leg glance, each building on the prior art. The freedom to copy without concern or cost is at the heart of the pedagogy of sport. This is especially so in resourcelimited countries where coaching talent is limited and much of the learning is done by watching elite players on television and then attempting to emulate them. If certain moves were granted protection and locked away, young athletes on the learning path would first be exposed to the move but then told they may not use it. This is a type of ‘pre-alienation’ that puts options and ideas into the mind but takes them away even before they can be experimented with.

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Get your copy of Boundary Lab by Nandan Kamath wherever books are sold.

Why is Sachin Tendulkar the World’s Greatest Batsman?

Imagine a young boy with a dream, a passion for cricket, and an unwavering determination to excel. That boy, hailing from the bustling streets of Mumbai, would go on to become a legend in the world of cricket, capturing the hearts of millions around the globe with his unmatched talent and sheer love for the game. With a career spanning over two decades, he has broken records and left an indelible mark on the sport’s history. He is the “God of Cricket” – a name that resonates with cricket aficionados and inspires awe in the hearts of fans worldwide. He is Sachin Tendulkar.

 

Gulu Ezekiel’s book Sachin: The Story of the World’s Greatest Batsman traces the life and achievements of Sachin Tendulkar. He has made more than 33,000 runs in international cricket, which is the highest number of runs to be scored by any cricketer. Dive into this excerpt and find out another reason that makes him the greatest batsman.

Sachin: The Story of the World's Greatest Batsman
Sachin: The Story of the World’s Greatest Batsman || Gulu Ezekiel

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A lot happened between March 2012 and November 2013 in the life and times of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

First came his much-awaited 100th international century (Tests and ODIs combined) in the Asia Cup against Bangladesh at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka on March 16. That was followed 20 months later by his final match in India colours, the second and final Test versus West Indies at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.

It was the 200th Test match of his career, a landmark that had never been achieved before. But there was plenty of action and drama in between as well. This included being a member of the Mumbai Indians squad under the captaincy of Rohit Sharma that won the IPL title for the first time in May 2013.

But back to March 2012…it was just over a year since his previous international century which had come in Nagpur against South Africa in the World Cup. The lean trot ended after 33 innings without a ton and a hugely relieved Tendulkar said after his century: “Dreams do come true. We won the World Cup after 28 years last year.”

The media and public were seemingly hanging on to his every inning and run as the team Down Under slid from one massive defeat to another in 2011-12 as the New Year unfolded.

By the end of the fourth and final Test at Adelaide, the rout was complete. India was whitewashed 4-0 just as they had been in the summer of 2011 in England. Eight overseas Test defeats in a row—Indian cricket had sunk to a new low and the fans were livid.

But the 100th century helped erase all that as the nation and the cricket world celebrated.

Tendulkar’s 51st Test century had come in the third Test against South Africa at Cape Town in January 2011. It would be the last Test 100 of his career. By the start of his final Test in November 2013 against West Indies in Mumbai he had gone 39 innings without another hundred.

The penultimate Test was at Kolkata. It was over in just three days, India winning by an innings with Tendulkar out for 10.

The circus moved onto its final leg in Mumbai. The whole city was agog and there was a mad rush for tickets. Finally, the day dawned, November 14, 2013. West Indies were asked to bat and collapsed for a measly 182. The crowd was buzzing. Would they get a chance to see their hero bat on the first day itself?

The moment arrived at the fall of the second wicket. At precisely 3.35 pm all eyes in the stadium turned to watch Tendulkar exit the dressing room to come out to bat in what would be his final time.

By stumps on the first day, India reached 157 for two, Tendulkar on 38 from 73 balls.

Overnight the frenzy built up to fever pitch. Could Tendulkar bow out in style with a century? There was massive anticipation and excitement on the second morning as he reached his fifty.

But it was too good to last. The first over after the drinks break marked one hour of play and Tendulkar was gone for 74, caught Darren Sammy bowled Narsingh Deonarine. The dream was over…unless India and The Hero batted a second time.

That was not to be. India piled up 495, a massive lead of 313 runs. West Indies’ second innings was only marginally better, 187 all out and the Test was done and dusted by the third day.

As the last wicket fell, Tendulkar threw up his arms in joy, grabbed a souvenir stump and hugged everyone including the umpires. The Indian team gave him a running guard of honour as he left the field of play for the final time in India colours. The West Indians came onto the field to shake his hand. Fireworks were set off and the presentation ceremony was set up. Once the tedious formalities were completed, the chants of ‘Sachin Sachin’ which echoed around grounds worldwide for over two decades reached a crescendo. It was time for the farewell speech.

With him was a list of people to thank. No one was forgotten. Watching on wife Anjali and children Sara and Arjun were in tears. In fact, there was not a dry eye in the house.

It was announced the government was conferring the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna on Tendulkar, the first sportsperson to receive it. And while he keeps himself busy with his charitable foundation and sports management agency, perhaps nothing could have given him more joy than seeing his son Arjun score a century on his first-class debut for Goa versus Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy at Porvorim on December 14, 2022, thereby emulating his proud father.

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Become a fan of Sachin Tendulkar by getting a copy of Sachin: The Story of the World’s Greatest Batsman from Amazon.

Author speak: Writing on T20, cricket and more!

In Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 Revolution, Tim Wigmore and Freddie Wilde take us on a whirlwind tour of the cricket format that has taken the world by storm. From its inception, when T20 was accepted by a narrow vote of the Marylebone Cricket Club, to its current global popularity, from its original superstar Chris Gayle to newcomers like Rashid Khan and Sandeep Lamichhane, T20 has become a phenomenon that has resurrected the game of cricket.

What inspired them to write this book? Read an interview with Tim Wigmore and Freddie Wilde below to find out:

 

What inspired you to write this book?

T20 has changed cricket so profoundly since it was created in 2003, and we wanted to read an account bringing this all together, explaining what had changed on and off the field, bringing the characters together and looking at what would come next. No one had written this book, so we wrote the book that we wanted to read.

 

When did you start writing it?

I [Tim] first suggested the concept to Freddie early in 2017. We then spent the next year or so with the idea on the backburner, only having done a few chapters, before then taking about another year to finish it off after we got a UK publishing contract in 2018.

 

Were there any challenges?

The biggest challenge was the lack of recording of T20 games – there has been almost no literature published on the game, so we had to do lots of primary research ourselves, rather than lean upon what had come before.

 

How did you carry out the research for this book?

This book is defined by the contributions of our interviewees, both on and off the field, who we are hugely grateful to for speaking so honestly and thoughtfully about the game. And of course we looked over scorecards old games, rewatched footage of crucial moments and talked lots between ourselves about how to develop the project.

 

While writing, did you discover a fact that surprised you?

The level of strategising and planning – both for the IPL auction and matches themselves – was fascinating, and some of the secrets of the IPL auction – like teams bidding for players they don’t really want to drive up the prices so other teams have less cash. Unlearning – the idea that batting is more important than bowling in T20. The more we looked at it the more it became clear that you absolutely need five strong bowlers to be a good T20 team. This is probably the biggest difference between CSK and RCB in the IPL – CSK have recognised the essential importance of bowling, while RCB have been more focused on batting all-stars. And as we know that hasn’t worked.

 

What do you think the future of cricket will be?

We have a chapter at the end with predictions for the future based on our research so I don’t want to give away too much! But two obvious ones – the continued rise of short-format cricket; and the growing importance of club-based cricket. Ultimately I envisage the structure of cricket becoming more like football – with the calendar dominated by domestic leagues, and international cricket being more about tournaments, and less about bilateral fixtures.

 

5 reasons why people should check out this book
  • Until now, much of the most interesting aspects of T20 have been hidden from the public. We hope our book helps change that.
  • We’ve talked to over 80 leading players and coaches, including Brendon McCullum, Rahul Dravid, Eoin Morgan, Ricky Ponting, R Ashwin, Kieron Pollard, Jos Buttler and Rashid Khan.
  • Front cover of Cricket 2.0
    Cricket 2.0 || Tim Wigmore, Freddie Wilde
  • No sport has changed as much as cricket this century – read our book to understand how, why and what’s next, whether you’re already a T20 fan or are new to the format.
  • We’ve won the Wisden Book of the Year award for 2020 – no book on T20 has ever won that before.
  • We explain how the IPL is really won and lost – Chennai fans will enjoy this more than Bangalore ones!

 

Any writing advice for people who wish to write on sports?

The best advice I could give would be to try and find interesting areas that you think are undercovered and you want to read more about them. If you want to read more, others probably do too. Find new areas and topics – don’t reproduce what you already read.


Intrigued? Check out the e-book of Cricket 2.0 to know more!

We shall overcome: Your dose of inspiration from sportstars!

These are times of collective struggle, and inspiration is more important than ever. As our future is thrown into uncertainty, it can oftentimes get difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The ‘Dear Me’ series of letters first appeared in Hindustan Times in 2017. These columns, penned by India’s top sporting icons, were published with the intent to inspire a young generation of struggling sportspersons, to serve as the light at the end of the tunnel for them.

We are revisiting some powerful letters that have given us an unexpected zeal for overcoming hardships and survive!

 

Milkha Singh

Also called the Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh is an Indian track and field athlete. He was the first Indian man to reach the final of an Olympic athletics event—the 400m race at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.

He writes to is sixteen-year-old self:

You have endured enough, but your hardships are not over. Later on you will realize that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It will be four more years before you discover running. However, I do wish you would have found your passion at least four years earlier because I don’t want you to lose an Olympic medal.

The quest for survival will take you to the world of sports. As a teenager, you may not have an idea about running as a sport. As an orphan, it will not only be about learning how to survive the brutal world, but also about carving out an identity for yourself.

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Abhinav Bindra

Abhinav Bindra is an Indian shooter who is also a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee. He was the country’s first individual Olympic gold medallist.

He writes to his fourteen-year-old self:

The support you receive from your family and the fact that your every training need is fulfilled may well be held against you when you go on to achieve success. Yours cannot be the conventional story of adversity to redemption that many usually look for. Never mind that.

You do this for yourself and for what it can mean to others who understand. You will need to earn every success, and no one else can do it for you. This will make you the man you aspire to be.

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Bhaichung Bhutia

Bhaichung Bhutia is a former Indian footballer. Dubbed the ‘Sikkimese Sniper’, Bhutia is known for his superb accuracy. He has been awarded the Padma Shri and Arjuna Award.

He writes to his eight-year-old self:

Young man, the one thing you need to realize is that you won’t win all the time. So stop fighting and crying every time you lose a match. In other words, stop being a bad loser. Your oldest brother, Rapden, is very good at football and thinks you are very talented, but he finds it difficult to deal with your tantrums when you lose. Winning and losing are part of the game, and you will have to take them in your stride. The sooner you accept this, the further you will go.

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Jwala Gutta

Jwala Gutta is a professional badminton player who has represented India at international events, both in mixed and women’s doubles.

She writes to her eleven-year-old self:

As you soar, remember you will also have to accept your share of criticism. It comes with that thing called success. You will be labelled a ‘cribber’ for speaking out. But then, you have faced criticism since you were eleven. So, it will not affect you any more.

What works for you is the belief your parents have in you and the fact that they have taught you to stand up for your rights. Both these lessons will take you far.

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Joshna Chinappa

Joshna Chinappa has won global recognition as a hugely successful junior squash player. She became the first Indian ever to win a British Junior Open title in 2005.She writes to her thirteen-year-old self:

She writes to her eighteen-year-old self:

I know you are a happy-go-lucky person. But now you will be facing the biggest challenges in life. You will need to have the right kind of people around you when it comes to friends or social situations.

You should probably be a little bit more aware of the kind of people you want to let into your life because your inner circle determines everything.

You will have to foresee everything that will go on in your life. I know you like to talk to everyone, you are always happy to chat with anybody and everybody, but if you continue this later in life you will wish you had been a bit more selective.


Whether in the sporting world or anywhere else, these struggles and words of wisdom and advice from some of the biggest sportsstars in the country are certainly relevant for all of us. Head over to the ebook to explore more such words that will inspire you towards persistence, struggle, and survival.

 

The Business of Match-fixing

Why is Royal Challengers Bangalore one of the worst-performing teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL), despite having batsman like A.B. de Villiers and Chris Gayle, and being captained by Virat Kohli?

In Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 Revolution, Tim Wigmore and Freddie Wilde take us on a whirlwind tour of the cricket format that has taken the world by storm. From its inception, when T20 was accepted by a narrow vote of the Marylebone Cricket Club, to its current global popularity, from its original superstar Chris Gayle to newcomers like Rashid Khan and Sandeep Lamichhane, T20 has become a phenomenon that has resurrected the game of cricket.

Here’s an excerpt from the e-book below:

During the mid 1990s, regarded as the modern golden age for cricket fixers, virtually all betting in cricket was concentrated on matches involving the nine nations who were permitted to play Test cricket. The simple reason was that very few other matches were televised internationally – and, without broadcasting coverage, there was a lack of funds in the betting markets. Without enough liquidity in the betting markets, corruptors couldn’t make enough cash for it to be worth their while getting players to fix.

T20 changed this equation. It meant that the number of games with enough money bet on them to be worth fixing went from in the region of 150 a year, the total number of top-tier international fixtures each year in the late 1990s, to five times as many. In 2018, there were 719 T20 fixtures played worldwide. And the potential pool of players of interest to corruptors – barely into three figures in the late 1990s – was now 2,119, the number of cricketers who played any official T20 games in 2018. So there were about 15 times more players worth corrupting than 20 years earlier.

Simple mathematics explained the burgeoning threat to cricket. ‘The amount of cricket being played now is phenomenal,’ the anti- corruption insider explained. ‘It’s the amount of opportunities that people have got.’ While the surge in interest in domestic cricket begat by T20 was celebrated, criminal gangs recognised the trend as a new business opportunity.

The years ahead would show that domestic T20 matches did not merely share the same vulnerabilities that international games had long possessed. Instead, domestic T20 was even more susceptible to corruption. The historic lack of interest in domestic games meant that authorities were initially blasé to the threat of fixing – so matches were not policed as rigorously as the international game, which itself remained vulnerable. Player education about corruption was also less thorough at domestic level, with a solitary brief PowerPoint presentation at the start of seasons generally considered sufficient; players who arrived late often did not even have that.

As the matches included players who were paid far less than in international games, getting players in on a fix was less expensive. Low-paid and insecure players, unsure of whether they would even get another contract, appearing with or against international players earning millions a year could also foment jealousy. It was not uncommon for players earning only a couple of thousand for a league season to play alongside players earning hundreds as much for the same work.

And so for players who fix, taking money to underperform could be entirely rational, as the sports economist Stefan Szymanski wrote. ‘On the “selling” side, the players must balance the reward from fixing against the potential cost of being caught. This cost is the probability of being caught multiplied by the penalty for fixing.’

The first great fixing scandal to be exposed that was caused by the new T20 ecosystem allegedly began in a hotel room. In 2008, the former New Zealand international cricketer Lou Vincent was playing in the Indian Cricket League, a T20 league in the country that was launched before the IPL, but was never approved by the Indian board. Vincent would later claim that he received a phone call from someone claiming to be a cricket equipment manufacturer, inviting him to a hotel room. He went to the room, but found no equipment. The man offered a prostitute as ‘a gift’ – along with a huge wad of American dollars.

This, Vincent would say, was the start of his involvement in match-fixing. In return for promises of US$50,000 per game, Vincent deliberately started underperforming. In the ICL, it was not uncommon for teams to move from odds of evens – suggesting a 50% chance of winning – to near 3/1 on (or 1/3) – suggesting a 75% chance – on betting exchanges for no apparent reason, suggesting a high degree of fixing.

‘I probably had a chip on my shoulder over my career. I left New Zealand pretty heartbroken and a bit angry at the system,’ Vincent later told New Zealand’s TV3. ‘And as the match-fixing world opened up to me . . . I thought, “Yeah, I’m going to make some big money now, so stuff the world.”’

Until his career ended in 2013, Vincent was a fixer. The next year, he admitted to 18 charges of fixing and was banned for life. A teammate he claimed had encouraged him to fix – Chris Cairns, the captain of the Indian Cricket League franchise Vincent was playing for in 2008 – was acquitted after a bruising trial in London in 2015. Indeed, the lack of criminal convictions for fixing, partly explained by the difficulty of explaining the mechanics of fixing to a jury who do not understand the game, may heighten incentives to fix if players deduce that there is scant chance of being caught.

Vincent’s claim that he initially thought that he was simply meeting a cricket equipment manufacturer was typical of how many corruption cases begin. Corruptors often approach players by befriending them in a manner that Ronnie Flanagan, the long- time chairman of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit, has likened to grooming. Players are approached by those claiming to be businessmen in bars or even over WhatsApp, and cultivated for several weeks.

This can be done in a subtle way: for instance, by pretending to offer a clothing contract. Mohammad Ashraful, the former Bangladesh captain who was subsequently found guilty of fixing in the Bangladesh Premier League in 2013, originally got gifts to celebrate his successes. Fixers can befriend players – then feigning personal financial debts, they will ask a player to underperform in a one-off way as a favour. If the player agrees, corruptors can threaten to reveal their corruption if they do not oblige in future. Sometimes, criminal gangs use honeytraps; a player can then be blackmailed – with the gang threatening, say, to release images to his family – to be persuaded to fix. ‘They tend to hunt the bars for you,’ Chris Gayle wrote in Six Machine. ‘You’ve got to be careful out there.’

For corruptors, the beauty of the fix is that getting one player, once, is enough to get them forever. A player who has fixed once can then be blackmailed: should they refuse to be involved in fixes again, then the gang say they will leak details of the fix, or threaten the player more directly. ‘Some of it starts very young . . . If I get you as a 19-year-old I’ve hooked you up,’ said the anti-corruption insider. ‘If I’ve recruited you I’m going to use you whenever I can.’

One-time fixers could effectively be trapped in perpetuity. Ruthless gangs moved to target players ever-younger, including in U-19 tournaments. A fix in one of these tournaments, which might have seemed relatively innocuous – a player could be enlisted to bowl a single no-ball, not for the fixers to make money off but simply as a way of blackmailing the player subsequently – could put the player on to the path of fixing for life.

Fixers using youth competitions as a way of recruiting players highlighted the importance of player education. But standards of education varied hugely around the world, meaning that gangs could pick off teams who offered the greatest likelihood of succumbing when their players were young. Such historic differences in player education are one reason for amnesties, such as for those in Sri Lankan cricket in 2019 – which allowed personnel to report their involvement in corruption without being reprimanded – could help protect the sport from future corruption.

Corruptors did not need to fix a match to enrich themselves; instead, they often merely needed to corrupt one player to make a profit. By knowing that one player was going to underperform in a certain way – either that a bowler would concede a large number of runs, or that a batsman would get out early or score much slower than required (preferably both) – corruptors could bet against this particular team before the period of deliberate underperformance. Then they could bet on the team after their period of deliberate underperformance, meaning that they traded themselves into a position when they could make money on the match market regardless of the actual final result. So players could be paid to fix, but their team would still be able to win without affecting corruptors’ profits.


T20 signaled a shift in cricket in more than one way. To know more check out the e-book of Cricket 2.0!

Bhaichung Bhutia writes to his younger self

From Anju Bobby George’s unexpected gold medal at the World Athletics Final in Monaco to Abhinav Bindra’s Olympic gold in Beijing, India’s sportspersons have constantly proved that they stand shoulder to shoulder with the world’s best.

However, as easy as they might make it look, their success is the result of years of struggle, focused training and relentless hard work to overcome several challenges.

The ‘Dear Me’ series of letters first appeared in Hindustan Times in 2017. These columns, penned by India’s top sporting icons, were published with the intent to inspire a young generation of struggling sportspersons, to serve as the light at the end of the tunnel for them.

Dubbed as the ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ of India, footballer Bhaichung Bhutia writes to his younger self in Dear Me, which brings all these letters under one cover.

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Dear eight-year-old Bhaichung,

It is nice to see you going back to your village for the winter vacations from the boarding school. I know you will again complain about the 10-km walk home. But know that sooner or later there will be a road to your house and electricity in your village.

This holiday though will be different for you since Dad has bought a football for the first time! Knowing you, I am sure you will be impatient to reach home and play with older brother Chewang, who is also returning with you and Dad.

Young man, the one thing you need to realize is that you won’t win all the time. So stop fighting and crying every time you lose a match. In other words, stop being a bad loser. Your oldest brother, Rapden, is very good at football and thinks you are very talented, but he finds it difficult to deal with your tantrums when you lose. Winning and losing are part of the game, and you will have to take them in your stride. The sooner you accept this, the further you will go.

Front Cover of Dear Me
Dear Me || HT Sports

I also know how much you are dying to find someone who could teach you lots of tricks about dribbling the ball and, yes, that someone who would show you how to execute a banana kick! When you return to school, everyone will talk about your talent. Except the games teacher. He will not select you, but don’t worry, you have a wonderful principal in Father George. So when you are not picked, you will tell him and he will help you get into the junior school team. Guess who will be chosen as the best player? You. I know your father keeps telling you to study

well and pass your examinations. I love him for the fact that he does not pressure you to top the class or get a high percentage. He just wants you to pass. Be glad that you don’t have a pushy parent because that will mean you have so much freedom to play and think of football. That is because he loves football and has taken you many times to watch him and Rapden play in the village tournament.


An uplifting reminder that dreams do come true, Dear Me allows you to be inspired by their extraordinary stories.

 

There’s More to Life than Cricket

Jai is fourteen and dreams of owning a café in Delhi. Inaya is fifteen and dreams of playing cricket for Pakistan.

In 2008, their worlds collide. What unfolds is a story that started way back in 1947 – with the drawing of a line.

Inaya lives with her father in Rawalpindi. Her cricket ambitions don’t always go down well with her family.

Find a glimpse of her story in the excerpt below. 

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Rawalpindi, Pakistan

A loud crash announced Inaya’s misjudged attempt at hitting a sixer in the tape-ball cricket tournament taking place in the street adjoining Haider Mansion. It startled Mudassar, the Haiders’ elderly help, almost causing him to drop the figurine of the ballerina that he was dusting. A tennis ball covered in insulation tape had shot through the open French windows in the drawing room, bouncing off a painting over the mantelpiece and knocking over a crystal photo frame. The ball deftly made its way through the shards of glass that now covered the floor to finally disappear beneath the large leather sofa. Moments later, a breathless fifteen-year-old burst into the room.

‘Sorry, sorry, Mudassar Chacha,’ Inaya panted, pushing away the mop of unruly curls from her eyes. Impenitently, she crouched down and retrieved the ball. ‘Please blame this on Zain. Please!’

There was the sound of footsteps and Inaya spun around.

‘What are we blaming on Zain, Inaya?’ asked her father, Irfan, as he strode in, followed at a more sedate pace by her grandparents. Inaya gulped and looked at them sheepishly. The trio surveyed the scene in silence. Inaya clutched the ball behind her back, hoping they wouldn’t notice the smashed photo frame.

Inaya’s grandmother straightened the painting that had tilted leftwards with the ball’s impact. ‘If you don’t like your grandfather’s paintings, you should just tell him so, Inaya. As I do,’ said Humaira. ‘Why go to all the trouble of taking potshots at them through windows?’

‘But I do like Daada’s paintings—that was an accident,’ muttered Inaya.

Inaya’s father retrieved the photograph that was on the floor. He carefully removed the fragments of glass and propped the photograph against the ballerina on the mantelpiece.

‘Inaya, look at your great-grandmother—she was . . . the epitome of grace. She would be appalled by all this,’ he said, gesturing at the destruction that lay before him. ‘There’s more to life than cricket, you know.’

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In Across the Line, Nayanika Mahtani presents a powerful story of borders and beliefs, shaped by the games people play. Lauded by Vidya Balan as a story that “lingers long after the last page is turned”, Jai and Inaya’s story brings together unlikely worlds across time and borders.

Can India Excel At Sports? Here Are 7 Challenges We Face

As we stand today, Indian sport is a fount of possibility— fast growing in opportunity, slow moving in delivering results, promising in its chaos. Sports management is a legitimate field of study that imparts knowledge on the business of all levels of sport, and is helping bright-eyed youngsters ‘follow their passion’ and channel it into specific directions of interest.

Go! India’s Sporting Transformation features never-before-seen collection of essays by leading athletes, sports writers and professionals, who together tell a compelling story of India’s ongoing sporting transformation.

Here are 7 challenges India faces that if addressed will help us reach new heights in sports:

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Sport in India has been viewed as a form of leakage of capacity and intent. The time spent on sporting activity was time spent not doing something more meaningful. Devoting time and energy to sport was in effect drainage of potential; time and attention paid elsewhere would be deemed to pay richer dividends.

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Sports as a career was a very high-risk choice, one in which being successful was no guarantee of being able to make a half-decent living.

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The idea of engaging in sweaty physical activity was seen to be a lower-order pursuit. What was valorised were the preoccupations that involved the upper body. The mind and its exertions were exalted, and there was a strong class connotation attached to things physical.

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The game of hockey had changed in character, and post the arrival of the astro-turf, the Indian lack of athleticism caught up with the team.

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Sporting federations across different sports displayed the same craven need for power, combined with a callous disregard for the sportsperson. The people charged with the responsibility of promoting sports have traditionally been the single-most important reason for the state that sport has languished in.

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We had a passive relationship with our bodies…..We increasingly think of our bodies as malleable and within our control. We can shape them, mould them as per our need, protect them, and use them to extract more life.

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Apologies… do not come easily to sports federations in India. That would mean the admission of an error and accountability to someone other than themselves. That doesn’t happen enough—neither the governors of an Indian sport admitting errors, nor feeling the need to be accountable.

Go! India’s Sporting Transformation is available now!

How did Abhinav Bindra win an Olympic gold medal? Read the story in his own words

Bright-eyed aspirants in sports-from badminton to gymnastics-are training across the country. Homegrown leagues are attracting the world’s best athletes and professionals. The country boasts multiple World No. 1 teams and athletes, and sporting achievements are handsomely rewarded.

Go! features a never-before-seen collection of essays by leading athletes, sports writers and professionals, who together tell a compelling story of India’s ongoing sporting transformation.

Read an interesting excerpt from the chapter, “Building Indian sports Champions in India”, written by Abhinav Bindra:

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Sourcing yak milk, balancing on the top of a pole 40 ft high, using screwdrivers and Allen keys, shaving off a few millimetres on a specially sourced shoe sole, eye-tests and matching sights, excess-baggage payments carrying special equipment, the colour of a wall, the wattage of a bulb, Bollywood movies, the right meal, a mother’s love, a father’s resolve, a sister’s belief, a coach’s patience.

What have these motley elements got to do with high performance?

Most often, nothing.

And, as my own journey shows, sometimes it means everything!

Given the type of life I have led over the last twenty years, I won’t blame you for believing that I might have some secret recipe for ‘being a champion’. But honestly, I don’t. I have experimented with my diet, overcome my fears, tweaked my equipment, modified my environment and surrounded myself with the right mix of people who have challenged and supported me unconditionally.

As you can probably tell, I spent a lot of my time experimenting. Trying to be the best shooter I could be. Ask me how this shooter became an Olympic gold medallist and I will happily tell you my story. I can only hope others will find it interesting.

It is true that I have lived the quest to be perfect on the imperfect day. In doing that, I have sometimes succeeded and most times failed. It has been a journey of ups and downs from day to day, season to season, Olympics to Olympics.

Let me tell you a little about the only subject on which I can call myself an expert—myself!

Twenty-two years of competition, 180 medals, five Olympics, three Olympic finals, one Olympic gold. All of it seems a daze. Until it doesn’t.

Looking back, I can now see it all much more clinically and dispassionately. I am no longer a stakeholder in my shooting career. I have exited my investment, as venture capitalists would say. That is my past. And I have a future to think about. But that makes retrospection all the more interesting for me.

I was not a natural athlete. In fact, I was a reluctant sportsperson. Introduced to shooting by my first coach, Colonel Dhillon, I instinctively felt that this was for me. This was something I could see myself doing, making a life of and a career from. For this chance, I navigated my way from dream to reality and built the personal skills that were necessary to win. What do I consider to be the skills that made the difference?

In my early career, I was extremely focused. I was trying all I could to make a name for myself as a young shooter. Inexperience meant that my quest was for perfection, and in my mind, that objective was a stationary target. You can’t blame a shooter for that, can you? To my mind, the goal was clear and the ‘system’ a perfect one. All I needed to do was understand the system and crack the code.

Athens 2004 was a wake-up call. In perhaps the most defining incident of my career, I came a disappointing seventh in the Olympic final after shooting what I thought was the perfect game. Only much later did I find out that the lane position I was allotted had a loose tile underfoot, which reverberated every time I shot. In a game of millimetres, it was amazing that I even hit the target! I went into a depression (literally) after Athens. Months later, I had two obvious choices—one, quit the sport or, two, carry on and accept the incident as a case of ‘bad luck’. I chose a third, and it defined me.

I chose the quest for Adaptability—to try to be perfect on the imperfect day. I started training under deliberately imperfect conditions, even installing a loose tile in my home range and practising regularly while standing on it. I trained in low light and under bright lights, adjusted bulbs and added peculiar shadows, painted the walls the same colours as the relevant Olympic ranges. Extreme behaviour perhaps. But it worked for me and even came to my rescue at Rio 2016, when my carefully chosen rifle-sight, through which I focused on the target, broke just a few minutes before my event. I was able to remain composed and made it to fourth. Had I chosen option two after Athens, I would have probably accepted it as fate and given up! Did I ever again encounter a loose tile? Honestly, I don’t know, and it was not something I thought about ever again when competing. Adaptability gave me versatility and the ability to not latch on to excuses, external conditions or stimuli. My attitude changed to acceptance of the fact that the only thing within my complete control was my own performance—but I was also ready for all the rest that wasn’t!


Go! features a never-before-seen collection of essays by leading athletes, sports writers and professionals, get your copy today!

Know the untold history of the first all-India team

On the morning of 6 May 1911, a large crowd gathered at Bombay’s Ballard Pier. They were there to bid farewell to a motley group of sixteen Indian men who were about to undertake a historic voyage to London. The persons whom the crowd cheered that sultry Saturday morning were members of the first All-India cricket team.

Conceived by an unlikely coalition of imperial and Indian elites, it took twelve years and three failed attempts before an ‘Indian’ cricket team made its debut on the playing fields of imperial Britain in the blazing coronation summer of 1911.

Prashant Kidambi, an associate professor of colonial history at the University of Leicester, introduces us to the first ever cricket team of India, in his book, Cricket Country.

Get to meet the team!

 

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala :The First Captain of the Indian Cricket Team

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh was not the organizers’ initial choice to lead the first Indian Cricket Team. In fact, Framjee Patel wanted H.H. Jam Saheb to become the skipper of the team. The Maharaja was known to use cricket to serve his own political interests. In 1931, he shared strained relations with the Viceroy Willingdon and used cricket to regain influence on imperial affairs.

 

Major K.M. Mistry

“Said to be in a ‘class by himself’, Mistry had first made his mark as a bowler for the long- established John Bright CC in Bombay… But it was while playing for the famous Patiala team in the late 1890s that Mistry developed into a truly great batsman. This left-handed Parsi was adept at playing strokes all around the wicket, ’attaining the maximum of power with the minimum of power.’

 

Maneck Chand

“The Bombay Gazzete described the Punjabi as a ‘fast right hand bowler’ who could prove   ‘very deadly’ if the conditions were favourable. Some even considered him the quickest bowler in the entire country.”

 

Dr. H.D. Kanga

“..Homi was said to possess ‘nerves of steel’ and play ‘a scientific game’…. ‘He is one of those    brilliant cricketers who can bat against all kinds of bowling as calmly as possible and make runs freely.’ wrote one contemporary on the eve of the Parsis’ encounter with the Presidency in September 1905.”

 

P. Baloo

Palwankar Baloo belonged to the class of ‘untouchables’, “However, it was precisely his tireless toil on the cricket pitch in the face of deep-seated caste prejudice that defined Baloo’s long cricket career.”  In fact, Baloo was considered to be one of the finest bowlers of the twentieth century and gave stellar performances in matches.

 

J.S. Warden

“The Bombay- born Warden, described by his captain Pavri as ‘a magnificent fellow’ was a relatively new find for the Parsis. This talented twenty-six-year old slow bowler – reputedly ‘one of the best in India’- was said to send down ‘balls which would beat the most wary of batsmen’.” He was a left handed bowler.

M.D. Pai

Mukund Damodar Pai was born in Bombay on 29th July 1883. His early cricket career was marked by consecutive success in playing cricket at schools and clubs. “The Bombay Gazette described Pai as a ‘fast run-getting bat, though. . . not quite of the hurricane type’; besides, he was said to be ‘a brilliant fielder’.”

 

H.F. Mulla

“Born in Bombay on 4 May 188, Mulla had first burst onto the cricketing scene as an undergraduate at Elphinstone College…. Even half a century later, one observer nostalgically recalled the ‘fabulous Homi Mulla. . . whose very turn to go in was the signal for us small boys to rush out of the tent or shamiana so as to be able to follow the ball as it became a tiny speck in the very clouds’.” He was considered to be a fine wicket keeper too.

 

K. Seshachari

Seshachari was one of the finest stumpers India has ever had.  He was trained by Charles Studd, one of the most well- known cricket players of his time. In 1906, the Cricket noted that Seshachari’s “… wicket-keeping is quite first-class and brilliant enough for any country…”

 

Salamuddin Khan

Born as a Pathan, in the Basti Sheikh Darwesh  district of Jullender, Salamuddin Khan was an all-rounder cricketer .It is said that he“ ‘ favourably impressed the Committee with his batting and bowling during the Bombay tour of the Aligarh team’.”

 

Shafqat Hussain

According the Bombay Gazette, Hussain had “ ‘been a revelation to local cricketers’ and commended his ability to bowl at varying speeds and lengths. ‘He scarcely bowls two balls alike in an over and we have seen no fast bowler in India who more admirable works with his head,’ the paper added.”

 

Syed Hasan

Syed Hasan was born in Moradabad and belonged to the North Indian Service Gentry. He was considered to be a reliable batsman- wicket keeper. Due to his cricketing abilities, he had also been a part of the Aligarh elite.

M.D. Bulsara

Maniksha Dadabhai bulsara was born in Daman on 2 September 1877. He was considered to be “‘a fast round- arm bowler of exceptional merit’, he was said to be ‘the only man in India who can make the ball “swerve” ‘“. It was said that he “could deliver a vicious leg break ‘that would beat the most wary of batsmen’. ”

 

R.P. Meherhomji

Meherhomji was a right handed batsman who,  “possessed the ability to time his strokes ‘to a nicety’, and therefore make them look effortless.” In 1905, Framjee Patel wrote that, “ ‘One finds it difficult whether to award the palm to him or Mistry as the most graceful batsman of the present time,’”

 

B. Jayaram

Jayaram had to face many obstacles in order to learn how to play cricket. However, when he scored his first century against the Yorkshire Regiment, he attracted ‘ widespread attention’  throughout the country. Cricketer Edward Sewel, even commented ,“… cutting is his forte and he is always dashing a bat, never scoring slowly.”

front cover of Cricket Country
Cricket Country | Prashant Kidambi

 

Noor Elahi

Noor Elahi was considered to be a ” ….fine batsman and a useful bowler”. I t was when he was playing in Kashmir, that he was invited to take part in the Indian Cricket Team tour of Britain. However, in the end Noor Elahi along with Maneck Chand withdrew from the tour. It is assumed that their employer, the Maharaja of Kashmir withdrew his decision of letting them travel abroad with the Indian Cricket team.

 

 

 

 


Drawing on an unparalleled range of original archival sources, Cricket Country is the untold story of how the idea of India was fashioned on the cricket pitch in the high noon of empire.

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