Book Name – Democracy’s XI The Great Indian Cricket Story
Author – Rajdeep Sardesai
Publisher – Juggernaut
Year of Publish – 2017
MRP – ₹ 599
Pages – 371
About The Author
Rajdeep Sardesai, the political journalist we have watched and heard for years has an immense amount of affection for cricket. One can definitely call him a cricket romantic who wanted to make it big in World Cricket following the footsteps of his father Dilip Sardesai but couldn’t achieve the feat as he lacked the talent to do so.
Being a journalist he got his first major break when he got to cover a 14-15 year boy’s batting at Shivaji Park. The Mumbai boy was as good as any international player even at the age of 15. Rajdeep wrote an article on the 1st page of his newspaper and thus progressed as a journalist in his career.
In that article, Rajdeep said that the 15 year old boy he saw, was the next big thing in Indian Cricket. And yes, his statement proved to be 100% accurate.
That 15 year old boy went on to score 100 International Centuries.
Cricket gave Rajdeep his first major break as a journalist and his love for Cricket increased ever then.
About The Book
Democracy’s XI is not about the players who would make the Greatest Indian Playing 11. But this book is probably about the most celebrated Indian Players who made it big at the International Level. Each Cricketer has worked hard and gone through rough patches. No one had a red carpet laid to perform and succeed.
1. Dilip Sardesai
2. Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi
3. Bishan Singh Bedi
4. Sunil Gavaskar
5. Kapil Dev
6. Mohammed Azharuddin
7. Sachin Tendulkar
8. Sourav Ganguly
9. Rahul Dravid
10. Mahendra Singh Dhoni
11. Virat Kohli
12. Eknath Solkar ( if he had to choose the 12th man)
After reading all the names you might not be surprised with 10 names but your eyebrows might be raised at the 1st name; Dilip Sardesai. You might think that Dilip being Rajdeep’s father has made it to the 11. Trust me, go through the book and you will know why he had made it to the book.
The small town boy from Goa had the talent to bat but absolutely no opportunities or facilities to climb up the ladders of cricket staying back in Goa. Coming to Mumbai changed his fortunes as he became a part of the great Mumbai Cricket Tradition.
In the entire chapter on Dilip Sardesai you would hardly find any partiality towards Dilip by the author even if they had a blood relation.
The credibility of Dilip being in the 11 is clearly backed by facts and incidents which is enough for the reader to believe that the mention in the 11 is not because of blood relations.
The chapters of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Bishan Singh Bedi are descriptive and clearly create an image in front of your eyes. The charismatic personalities of both are glorified with perfect and apt instances.
The Sardar of Spin and the Nawab of the Republic had huge impact on the revolution and development of Indian Cricket. Bedi was the one who fought for his team and wanted the management to know that the players are more important than the committee.
Rajdeep has been successful in explaining the struggles, quarrels and controversies in a non-controversial way. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth Tiger (Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi) was a whole different kind of person.
Rather than focusing on his royal Nawab Life, Rajdeep has centralized on the cricketing career of Tiger. His friendship with his fellow teammates, the way he used sing, dance and play table during long journeys is wonderfully penned.
Disturbing the order, I would like to summarize Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar chapters together. Both from Mumbai, both cricketing legends and both regarded as the best batsman of their generations. There has been a lot of similarity between Tendulkar’s and Gavaskar’s childhood. Belonging to middle class families, making a good career was extremely important for both.
Gavaskar was the one showed Golden Days to Indian Cricket. One can dominate Batting and carry the entire team single handedly was what Gavaskar represented. The chapter on Gavaskar clearly states the amount of respect and admiration the author has for him.
The idea which Rajdeep states might be the only one which would be agreed by 1.3 billion people;
There is no one who has given as much happiness as Sachin Tendulkar has given Indians for two and half decades.
For 24 years he was the God of Indian Cricket. Today there won’t be a single Indian Batsman who would say that Sachin is not his Batting hero.
Often, people compare Gavaskar and Tendulkar even if both share immense amount of mutual respect for each other. Rather than comparing, Rajdeep has laid emphasis on stating that why both of them are extra-ordinary and irreplaceable.
On the similar lines, I would combine Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni chapters. Both World Cup winning captains and both are small town heroes.
Rajdeep states that for a very long time, Indian Cricket was only restricted to Metro cities. A small town cricketer making it big was a rare case. The World Cup win in 1983 under the captaincy of Kapil Dev was definitely the changing point in Indian Cricket.
The book beautifully describes how small town players got inspired and also wanted to be like Kapil. The josh (enthusiasm) brought by The Haryana Hurricane was electrifying. Being responsible as well as being aggressive were the key assets of Kapil Paaji.
The story of both the Indian Captains is already known to the World. Rajdeep has tried to focus on minute details which enhance the beauty of the book.
The next combination would be of 3 stars with different images and roles.
Mohammed Azharuddin, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid were all elegant batsman. One has the record of scoring 3 centuries in his 1st three test matches. One gave it back to the English Team by waving his t-shirt at the Lords Balcony and one is known as the person who would walk on fire if his team needs him to do so. All the 3 cricketers are extremely celebrated in India.
The efforts taken by the author to write something other than the usual information makes the book so interesting to read.
Describing Azharuddin, Rajdeep delicately explains Azhar’s relationship with his grandfather and how he motivated and inspired all the time. Azhar always felt that his grandfather is with him all the time. The same laziness for which Ganguly was kept outside the team is described in a funny way where the efforts taken by him to be fit for the team is motivating.
The amount of respect each Indian has for The Wall is as great as anybody in the world. Rahul Dravid has been that figure who always sets an example for others. Rajdeep is also awestruck by Dravid’s nature and he just cannot stop admiring him.
The book also offers explanation given by Dravid about that controversial declaration in a Test Match when Tendulkar was on 194.
As the book is published in 2017, the content written on Virat Kohli seems to be less as compared to other cricketers. Rajdeep defines Virat as the next star who is going to carry Indian cricket on his shoulders for many years.
The grit and dedication of Virat after his father’s death is described in such a way that you get Goosebumps. You might even shed a tear if you are really emotional. The journey of a careless and arrogant Virat to the responsible batsman and captain is a well-defined journey.
As a lover of cricket and a cricket enthusiast, you wouldn’t like to miss this book. This book will definitely refresh your memories you have created watching the legends play.
Right from Sunil Gavaskar facing the West Indian Giants to Virat Kohli smashing sixes all around the park, this book has absolutely everything.
Definitely worth a read!