If you pride yourself on being a fan and student of Indian cricket, 'From Mumbai to Durban - India's Greatest Tests' is one collection you must grab.

If you pride yourself on being a fan and student of Indian cricket, ‘From Mumbai to Durban – India’s Greatest Tests’ is one collection you must grab.

Passion is universally defined as any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling about a person or a thing. It is an all-encompassing sentiment, one of the great undefinables like joy and anger, love and hate.

The channelising of passion can lead to the most remarkable of things – a magical, mystical piece of art, for example. A musical masterpiece. A literary magnum opus. An innings of sublime grace, a spell of mesmeric bowling. All these require the coming together of passion and skill, of drive and creativity.

Passion can also egg you on to translate your dreams into reality. If that takes loads of leg-work, plenty of painstaking research and the need to tap into all available resources, so be it. As S Giridhar and VJ Raghunath, two cricket-nutters as cricket-nutters can get, have exemplified with their second offering, From Mumbai to Durban – India’s Greatest Tests.

Writing a book is no mean accomplishment. All we get to see is the end product, and depending on how we view the finished work, we either hail it or dismiss it. This is an effort worth hailing, and not just because the end product is an excellent read. For, this is no quickie or a mere chronicling of what the co-authors believe are India’s 28 greatest Tests. The research is extensive, the flow compelling, the desire to dig deep and go beyond the obvious laudable. You may or may not agree with the 28 Tests they have so meticulously identified, but that is no more than splitting hairs. The least you are allowed when you are writing a book is your judgement, and there is not very much in any case to suggest that their judgement is seriously flawed in any shape or form.

The fact that Giridhar and Raghunath have been able to get some of Indian cricket’s top players, as well as media personalities, so intricately linked with the sport in the country, to open up, and provide insights and material, is tribute to not merely their persistence but also the goodwill they command across the cricketing spectrum. That’s where this book is different from an ‘attendance effort’, if you like – taking the easy way out and writing out matches that one hasn’t been in a position to see off easily available scorecards.

Extensively picking the brains of contemporary participants of various hues – cricketers, coaches, journalists – could not have been an easy exercise, but the authors at least had reasonable access and friendly ears to fall back on. But to delve deep into history, pore over archives and pick out nuggets from the pre-Internet era is a commendable exercise that lends both substance and credibility to the entire effort.

These aren’t just India’s greatest victories. There are some thrilling draws, and some that are tame stalemates in isolation but with far-reaching consequences, such as the one at Sabina Park in Kingston in 1971, when Ajit Wadekar enforced the follow-on on a stunned Garry Sobers and his side. Stunned not only because they had been asked to follow-on, but also because they didn’t quite realise that in a four-day Test – the opening day was washed out entirely – you only needed to lead by 150 runs to do so. West Indies came away unscathed by amassing 385 for 5 in their second knock after trailing by 170 on the first count. Whether it had a bearing on India’s seven-wicket win in Port of Spain in the next Test is open to debate, but there is no denying the massive psychological hold it gave Wadekar’s men as they successfully broke their duck on Caribbean soil.

There is, of course, the immortal tie in the Madras Test of 1986, the dramatic happenings neatly bookended by Dean Jones’s courage and determination, Ravi Shastri’s intelligence and, possibly, Vikram Raju’s erroneous finger of doom. As well as the heartbreaking loss to Pakistan in 1999, also at MA Chidambaram Stadium in what had by then become Chennai, a loss that drove Sachin Tendulkar to inconsolable tears but enhanced the reputation of the cricket-loving fans of the Tamil Nadu capital in a day and age where the home team was still the favourite, but good cricket by the opposition, even by Pakistan, was still appreciated and applauded.

Unless you are intent on nit-picking, you can’t argue with the compartmentalisation – from Independence to 1969, then the 1970s when India under Tiger Pataudi and Wadekar announced themselves, from 1981-2000 when away victories were rare as hen’s teeth, and finally between 2001 and 2010 when, with the golden generation firing on all cylinders, India conquered the world on their way to the No. 1 Test ranking under Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The segregation of eras is at once interesting and indicative of the growth of India as a Test-playing nation. The early part of India’s Test journey was accompanied by promise and heartache; there were patches of individual brilliance but not enough collective resources to remain a consistently strong and relevant force at the highest level. Unless you are intent on nit-picking, you can’t argue with the compartmentalisation – from Independence to 1969, then the 1970s when India under Tiger Pataudi and Wadekar announced themselves, from 1981-2000 when away victories were rare as hen’s teeth, and finally between 2001 and 2010 when, with the golden generation firing on all cylinders, India conquered the world on their way to the No. 1 Test ranking under Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Extensively picking the brains of contemporary participants of various hues – cricketers, coaches, journalists – could not have been an easy exercise, but the authors at least had reasonable access and friendly ears to fall back on. But to delve deep into history, pore over archives and pick out nuggets from the pre-Internet era is a commendable exercise that lends both substance and credibility to the entire effort.

Especially for those hooked to the game through the promise of instant gratification, this book will transport you to a fascinating era when cricket was a means to enjoyment and fulfilment, not an end in itself. If you pride yourself on being a fan and student of Indian cricket, this is one collection you must grab. With gusto.

From Mumbai to Durban – India’s Greatest Tests
S Giridhar and VJ Raghunath
440ppRs 799, Juggernaut