Book Review: Eleven Gods and a Billion Indians by Boria Majumdar
Although I rarely watch cricket, or take an interest in sports for that matter, these days, there was a time when I used to bleed blue for India and knew the names of all cricketing stars by heart. Initiated to watching cricket during the 1996 World Cup, I had a taste for the gentlemen’s game till mid-2000’s when Sourav Ganguly retired.
So, this book by Boria Majumdar, Eleven Gods and a Billion Indians was nothing short of a trip down the memory lane. Cricket is nothing short of a religion in India (something which bothers me greatly). And it was refreshing to read the account of India’s most popular sport—going from early tours in 1886 to the more contemporary IPL. The book offers a complete understanding of the evolution of the game both on and off the field.
What works for this book is the astounding collection of personal interviews, photographs, and letters. The book also deals with some not-so-pleasant questions that the sport is facing in India currently. From internal conflicts to spot-fixing, transparency and accountability of BCCI to the conduct of some ‘icons’ – Boria deals with them head on.
Of course, Boria has written extensively about the Sourav-Chappell episode. It was something I was longing to read about. He has also explored the coach-captain angle well using Virat Kohli-Anil Kumble for reference.
I really loved the way he has dealt with controversies in the book. From the infamous Monkeygate to the match-fixing scandal or the Lalit Modi fiasco – every issue is dealt with in detail, with the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ approach. The rise of IPL, and Lalit Modi, is well-covered in the book. Another interesting chapter was how Lala Amarnath took on De Mello (president of BCCI) and emerged victorious.
In fact, the controversial past of the BCCI is covered in detail in ‘Eleven Gods’. How the Maharajas of Patiala, Porbander and Vizianagram sponsored the game of cricket and also took advantage of it is an intriguing read. The chapter ‘The debut years and the political backstage’ covers the various backroom politics which took place between the Maharajas and the players (CK Nayudu, Lala Amarnath, Vinoo Mankad and others), with the players more often than not being the scapegoat.
Talking about the BCCI, the reference to Jagmohan Dalmia is but necessary. The chapter ‘Cricket’s cash box revolution’ is an important one for the millennial generation to understand how money came into India cricket. There is a mention in the book that in 1992: Doordarshan demanded one lakh rupees from the BCCI to telecast cricket matches played on India soil. Compare this to Star India buying IPL telecast rights for 5 years across all platforms for Rs 16,347.50 crore paying 55 crore per match to the BCCI. Astounding.
It does not need repeating that the book is extremely well-researched. Boria Majumdar deserves full credit for chronicling an omnibus. This book will go down in history as the Mahabharata of Indian Cricket.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
P.S. A review copy of the book was provided by the author
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Posted on May 27, 2018, in Books and tagged Anil Kumble, BCCI, blog, blogging, Book, Bookreview, Books, Boria Majumdar, Cricket, Eleven Gods and a Billion Indians, India, IPL, Jagmohan Dalmia, Lala Amarnath, Lalit Modi, review, S India, Sourav Ganguly, Virat Kohli. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.