Rajdeep Sardesai is the son of one of the finest cricketers of India, Dilip Sardesai. Well, that’s the news to me which I was enlightened with the opening chapter of the book Democracy’s XI The Great Indian Cricket Story. I know Rajdeep Sardesai as a famous and controversial TV journalist and writer, but never dug deep to put two and two together.
Democracy XI is not only the story of the journey of cricket in India:its advent, evolve and touching the peaks of the glory, but is an epic storytelling with 11 cricketers at the center stage who with their talent, commitment and sheer zeal for the sport raised the level of the game each time.
11 Gems of Indian Cricket
The cricketers who made into the Democracy XI of the author are Dilip Sardesai, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Nishant Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli.
Indian cricket has gone through many phases and transition right from its advent in India to till date. And Sardesai has portrayed it vividly throughout the book. Dilip Sardesai added self belief in the team to score oversea, Pataudi was responsible to infuse nationalist feeling in the team. Rebellious Bishan Singh Bedi always stood for the players.
Sunil Gavaskar added self esteem, Kapil added excitement, Sachin added stature, Sourav Ganguly added hope, Rahul added mannerism with steel will, Dhoni added cleverness and lastly Virat added a desire to dominate.
Cricket- Then and Now
Match fees during the time of Dilip Sardesai in the 1950’s- 60’s was Rs 250 per Test Match. This match fees slowly and steadily increased and now at present cricketers earns Rs 15 Lakh a test, Rs 7.5 Lakh for one day and Rs 4 lakh for Twenty20 match. This clearly shows how well the game has progressed since independence.
Also cricket era is divided as runs made before the arrival of helmet and after. Batsmen of these two era were certainly can’t be compared with each other.
The Story of Cricket in the Backdrop of Political Incidents
Sardesai picks up significant political events and happenings in the country and weave them effortlessly into the cricketing story thus giving an overall scenario of that period of time. This really enhanced reading experience and increased connectivity. And of course you can’t stop wondering whether politics and cricket run in his flesh and blood.
We are well aware about the union of cricket and bollywood but junior Sardesai has gone one step further and has drawn parallels not only between politics and cricket but also between politicians and cricketers.
For example, in the year 1971, Indian team tasted it’s real oversea victory in England, Indian soldiers, in the same year routed the Pakistani army.
Liberalization of the economy in 1991 saw the rise of India economy and cricket didn’t remain untouched by it. In fact, cricket finally became a crorepati sport after 1991 and Sachin Tendulkar was its first beneficiary.
Another interesting remark by the author was that Rahul Dravid stepped down from the captaincy in its prime. Like him, Manmohan Singh should have declined the second term of Prime Ministership and retained his image intact.
He has compared crickters with their contemporary politicians like Pataudi with Nehru, Sunil Gavaskar with Indira Gandhi, Bishan Singh Bedi with The Golden Temple of Amritsar and Virat Kohli with Narendra Modi.
Such observation of the author actually made the book an enriching experience to read. His vivid writing would transport you to the place of action. The best thing I liked about the book is that none of the chapters were written in a fixed format. It seems like he wrote as thoughts flow.
My interest in cricket grew tenfold after the arrival of Dada (Well, I am from Kolkata, West Bengal). Naturally, like any fan, even I closely followed every news related to Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and to some extend MS Dhoni as well. They were the shining stars of Indian Cricket during that time. So I knew most of the things written in the book about them.
But it was really great to read about the legendary cricketers who came before Sachin Tendulkar like Dilip Sardesai, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Bishan Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Mohammad Azharuddin.
I have an observation about the cricketers selected by Rajdeep Sardesai for his book. Out of eleven cricketers there are only two ballers – Bishan Singh Bedi and Kapil Dev, rest were all batsmen. So is it the fact that Indian soil has produced more batters and Indian cricket is more dominated by batters.
It is an exciting and fun book to read about cricket and its shining stars with politics in the background. I think if you are seriously a cricket fan than reading this book is a must.