"Writing these books is not at all about money or fame but about creating awareness. Everything about the Indian team is vastly reported and followed closely, but people fail to realise that cricket is also played at a rung below the international level. They recognise their national stars but don’t even acknowledge players who’re representing their very own state. I want more and more people to follow their domestic teams and stars,” says Aakash Chopra in an exclusive interview to Arunabha Sengupta about his new book ‘Out of the Blue’
Recently, cricketcountry.com pages carried excerpts from Aakash Chopra’s new book “Out of the Blue” as well as one of the very first reviews of the same. Now, the former Indian opening batsman himself candidly speaks about his new book to this website.
Q: India is known to be a country where glamour counts a lot more than reality. International cricket and stars - be it Test, ODI or T20 – constitute glamour ... along with all that is associated with the game - media glare, ads, cheerleaders, comedy shows masquerading as news channels. In spite of all this, and having more than adequate experience at the top level, you decided to write about your experience at the first class level. What made you do it?
Aakash Chopra (AC): All of what you mentioned in the question was the most important reason of my penning down two books on India’s domestic set up. Everything about the Indian team is vastly reported and followed closely, but people fail to realise that cricket is also played at a rung below the international level. They recognise their national stars but don’t even acknowledge players who’re representing their very own state. It’s a very sad state of affairs, but to say that nobody cares is easy and doing something because you care is tough. Ergo the books.
Q: Are you apprehensive about the reception and appeal the book will have for fans who seem ignorant about the Ranji Trophy and other domestic tournaments? Especially when you see most people are satisfied as long as they get their fill through IPL, ODI and Tests - in that order?
AC: Not at all. In fact, the very reason for writing this book was to bring the stories of these nondescript players to the fore. People should get to know that cricket is also played by normal people and they deal with a lot of problems for the sake of playing cricket. Glory, money, accolades come a lot later.
Q: There have been quite a few books on first-class cricket that have come out of England and Australia in the past, and even from India in days long back. However, in modern times, your tale is probably a unique story of an aspect of cricket no one seems to care about. Why do you think there are so few books, and so limited interest regarding first-class cricket these days?
AC: Well, it’s not glamorous and our country is obsessed with stars. It’s a star-crazy nation and not a cricket-loving country. How else can you explain not even 20 people to watch an absorbing contest between Delhi and Mumbai? It’s a simple case of demand and supply…since people don’t follow the domestic circuit, people don’t write about it either and publishers also stay away from taking the plunge.
Q: The book is the story of a journey in which you reached the top of domestic cricket after having been subjected to some seriously harsh treatment. Yet, there is hardly any explicit bitterness in your account, or excessive dwelling on your own achievements. Was it a conscious decision to write this way?
AC: Yes, I had to be a bit detached to be objective. Yes, there were incidents that left a sour taste in the mouth, but it was important not to allow the negative emotions to spill over. Also when I heard the stories of my fellow cricketers, my own pain felt a lot less. In fact I counted my blessings.
Q: You have been pretty direct about some of the selectors and team mates in your account. How have they reacted to the book or the excerpts/reviews of the same? How do you think it will affect relationship dynamics with them in the long run?
AC: I think that penning down this book has brought me closer to my teammates. I stayed in my Delhi dressing room for over a decade, but I can’t claim to know their personal lives as well as I know of these cricketers from Rajasthan. Yes, I’ve been honest and that’s been appreciated by my colleagues too. They understand that my opinion wasn’t driven by any agenda or personal vendetta.
Q: What would you describe as the most satisfying of your achievements when you speak from the bottom of your heart? Facing the Australian pace bowlers in their backyard or coming back from wilderness and winning the Ranji Trophy?
AC: Tough one, since all of the above are very close to my heart. But if it’s necessary to put in an order, I’d say:
1. Playing Australia in Australia
2. Winning two Ranji trophies and writing about them.
Q: How do you think the book is going to affect the public interest about domestic tournaments?
AC: I really, sincerely hope that it creates the awareness. Writing these books is not at all about money or fame but about creating awareness. I want more and more people to follow their domestic teams and stars. They must start looking beyond the “Men in Blue”.
Q: How much do you enjoy writing? Was it an acquired taste or have you always had the knack for it?
AC: I love writing. It’s therapeutic. It’s like having a companion with me. It’s liberating and satisfying. I liked writing from the beginning but increased the frequency and chose a public platform only in the last seven years.
Q: Do you have anything further up your writer's sleeve right now?
AC: My next book ‘The Insider’ should come out in the second half of 2012. It’s a compilation of my articles for Cricinfo. It’ll be a technically heavy book, which will also take the readers into a cricketer’s head.
Q: How have general people and fans reacted to the book till now?
AC: “I’m counting my blessings and can’t thank God enough for his generosity. The book has been received really well, reviews are brilliant and more than the reviews, the normal people have loved it. We’ve almost sold out the first print-run and now are planning for the second print-run. A lot of copies are also being sold from my site – the last mentioned are personally autographed.
(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but cleanses the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two. His author site is at http://www.senantix.com and his cricket blogs at http:/senantixtwentytwoyards.blogspot.com)