Sunday, May 11, 2008

Men in White; Men in Black

By John Cheeran
I enjoyed reading Mukul Kesavan’s Men in White, a book of essays. It took me almost a year to get hold of the book and then last month, I read through it.
Being an irregular reader of Kesavan’s columns’ at The Telegraph, Calcutta, these offering was far from satisfying. I did not understand the hype regarding a book which is essentially a compilation. In fact to sell his book, Kesavn wrote a blog with the same name at and after the publication of the book he stopped it.
And unfortunately when I was in Delhi in April, an acquaintance’s blog watch column in a tabloid, bemoaned the end of the blog! It is indeed good to have such friends.
I, however, want to salute Kesavan for coming up with some bold statements regarding the nature of cricket journalism in India.
Kesavan rightly points out how cricket journalists in India, and that includes former cricketers-turned-writers, fail to look facts at their faces.
And this opinion too one has read before at Wisden Asia cricket magazine. Kesavan writes that even guys such as Sanjay Manjrekar puts Barry Richards, who played only FOUR Tests, much higher in order when they make a list of batting greats, and ignores someone like Sunil Gavaskar, who was the backbone of Indian batting close to two decades. And Manjrekar at least should have watched Gavaskar in action many times over, being a Mumbai-based cricketer.
Kesavan rightly attacks the servile attitude of Indians for blindly holding onto the indexes supplied by the white cricket establishment. And immediately he refers to Graeme Hick, and how the player was exposed in the international arena for what he is worth. He would have been another Barry but for playing for England and coming a cropper.

It is observations such as these that make Kesavan’s writing a pleasure to read. But as Kesavan accuses some of the leader writers of English newspapers, who had an uncharitable view on Sourav Ganguly, as being failed intellectuals, Kesavan himself can be classified as a failed novelist. And a failed novelist is any day better than an average Indian cricket journalist.

Kesavan quotes Christopher Isherwood of having said that he occupies the front of the second grade novelists, an admission of reality, I have a feeling that same can be said of our history teacher at Jamia Milia in Delhi.

How many average Indian cricket journalists have had the educational and family background that Kesavan has enjoyed? But that Kesavan is an elitist should not take away from the worth of his arguments.
And Kesavan comes across as someone who is irreverent when he berates AFS Talyarkhan, a highly rated sports journalist and commentator based in Mumbai, as an old windbag. I have read only a few columns Talyarkhan wrote for Sportsweek in the fag end of 80s. I haven’t listened to more than a couple of AFS T’s broadcasts. So I can’t make judgment on them. I’m sure Kesavan is correct in his criticism of AFST. But what’s the point of pointing finger at someone who is dead and buried in this case?
Can Kesavan criticize today’s windbags?
How does he rate Arun Lals, Harsha Bhogles?
Would he dare to criticize anyone of these jokers?

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