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Another century, another list – the intelligent fan’s guide

In the last century, cricket writer A A Thomson gave this advice to a friend who asked which ten books he should start a cricket collection with: “Any eight by Cardus.” What about this century? I shall borrow from Thomson and start by saying, “Anything by Gideon Haigh…”

Three personal favourites are Stroke of Genius: Victor Trumper and the Shot That Changed Cricket, about a player, a single stroke, a history of the game and what it means to people, identity and more. Mystery Spinner is the story of Jack Iverson while Silent Revolutions is a delightful collection of Haigh’s journalism. Haigh’s secret has been known for some time. He brings to his journalistic pieces the same discipline, controlled intensity and authority that he displays in his books.

For the remaining titles, I have divided the books into five broad categories: Concerning India, biographies and autobiographies, history, issues of the game and anthologies.

Ramachandra Guha’s A Corner of a Foreign Field brought Indian cricket writing into the 21st century, weaving together many threads — historical, biographical, personal, political, cultural, philosophical — in a vibrant, original pattern. Prashanth Kidambi’s recent Cricket Country, the well-researched story of an Indian team’s first tour of England in 1911 sits comfortably alongside it, another fine example of a scholar turning his attention to cricket.

Pundits From Pakistan, written a decade and a half ago on the Indian team’s tour of Pakistan remains fresh and reaffirms that its author, Rahul Bhattacharya is one of the finest cricket writers anywhere.

Among efforts by players, there is Aakash Chopra’s debut Beyond The Blues and its companion, Out of the Blue. The diary of a season, and then the story of Rajasthan’s maiden Ranji Trophy triumph are narrated with an empathy few players bring to their writing.

The final choice is James Astill’s The Great Tamasha, a story of Indian cricket with all its chaos and mismanagement. “There’s great passion for cricket in this country,” the late Tiger Pataudi told Astill, “but little knowledge.”

Opening up

Knowledge comes through in Michael Atherton’s Opening Up, by a sportsman with the rare quality of self-awareness. Perhaps there is something about opening batsmen — Chopra was one — for my next choice is Marcus Trescothick’s moving, candid story of his depression in Coming Back to Me, which brought mental issues out in the open.

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