An odyssey is a long arduous journey, the word tracing its roots to Homer's eponymous epic poem. “Cricket Odyssey” is at once the past and present (and the future to some extent) of the gentleman's game, as well as the journey traversed by author Rajgopal Nidamboor from his boyhood days in the 1960s till date, seeking out, consuming and digesting cricket.
Embellished with a foreword by cricket commentator Simon Hughes, an afterword by former India Test cricketer Lalchand Rajput, and a handwritten message from Rahul Sharad Dravid, this book, in my opinion, will be a delight for aficionados and connoisseurs alike, be they from the sub-continent, the Caribbean, Down Under or the cradle of the game, or for that matter from any other countries into which the game is making inroads. Budding cricket writers would benefit immensely from reading this and referring to it time and again when working on their own pieces.
You may not find time to read the biographies and autobiographies of all the cricketers profiled in the “Cricket Odyssey”. But what better than 3 to 4 pages on each one of them, focusing on the core and crux of his cricketing career? Dr. Nidamboor has always been a wordsmith, a man who has been able to see 'everything in cricket and cricket in everything,' if I may say so. By 'everything', I mean the arts and fine arts, science and religion, philosophy and psychology and even spirituality!
The 75 cricketers he has profiled are some of the gems from the quarry of the game - of varying hues and degrees of lustre. They are not just his favourites, but perhaps include most favourites of most readers. They of course are undoubtedly the best the sport has produced. Dr. Nidamboor could very well have constructed a huge encyclopedia by 'character-sketching' even more cricketers. But his purpose was to provide the best alternative to an intimidating tome.
Just 75 of the 2500-plus who have played Test cricket thus far would account for a measly 3%. But is that not also approximately the share of the icing in the cake's height? “Cricket Odyssey” deals with the icing....and having tasted that, readers can opt to devour the cake at their leisure.
The author has not exactly prioritised the prolific over the others. Even the mercurial who faded away after a few years under the sun find a place among the 75, indicating clearly that there is a multitude of virtues - think of art, music, science, religion, philosophy - which charm and attract a student of the game. There is something, or rather someone, in it for all generations of readers. The author has paid careful attention to this.
Of course, one would pick and choose to read about the cricketers one admires. But then one may already know a lot about the cricketers one admires and would opt to read about the others. When reading, pay less attention to the statistics -the body- and more to the heart, mind and soul to understand the subject being sketched and appreciate the author's finesse in looking beyond what meets the eye and hearing more than what hits the tympanum.
Attempt to go back and re-read to fit the jigsaw pieces neatly to get the complete icing....75 bits in all. From Grace to Tendulkar, Hammond to Dravid, Constantine to Kallis, Pollock to Waugh, Grimmett to Kumble and many in between, “Cricket Odyssey” is a symbol of the author's love for the game.....and the readers' too.
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