Book Review: 'Miracle Men - The Greatest Underdog Story In Cricket'
The 1983 World Cup rings a whole lot of emotions. The unexpected triumph gave roots to Indian cricket, as it came out of the cocoon to bloom. That tournament initiated the power shift from England to Asia. The best thing about the book is that it doesn't just revolve around the World Cup win. Author Nikhil Naz has managed to strike the right chords by involving people around the win.
The book has been pretty much been divided into different narratives- The key World Cup victory, Mintu Bhatia (The Indian team's desi food caterer), Jiten Bhai Parekh and the interesting experiences of Ayaz Memon and Rajdeep Sardesai.
It all starts with little Saacho (Sachin Tendulkar), the 10-year-old dreamy-eyed, John McEnroe supporting kid's first brush with a match involving such huge stakes. He isn't as interested in such a long match or mature enough to understand the intricacies of the match.
That is, in fact, the attitude of the BCCI when it comes to this World Cup too. An ODI World Cup isn't as valuable as Test cricket in those days. The Indian team themselves treated this World Cup in England more as a vacation rather than going with a mentality to win. Plans for a USA trip after India get knocked out are in the offing but Kapil Dev had other ideas.
The team's time in England didn't get off to a great start as they lost to a side filled with plumbers, farmers and salesmen in a warm-up match. This didn't discourage India as wins against the mighty Windies, a come from behind performance against Zimbabwe changed the mood in the camp. Riding on the new-found belief, Kapil's Devils eventually did the unthinkable by defeating West Indies on 26th June 1983.
This victory was special, considering that the team had to overcome rifts between Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar, players filled with inferiority complex and officials who didn't do enough for the players.
Mintu Bhatia and Jiten Bhai Parekh
The author Nikhil Naz has done very well to fuse cricket with heartwarming stories of Mintu Bhatia and Jiten Bhai. Bhatia, an avid Indian-origin fan became the Indian team's caterer by accident as the team consisted of a lot of vegetarians. While he supported India throughout the tournament, his son Harry hated everything about India. However, after India miraculously won the final, Harry's attitude changed for the good and he started to help his father with their restaurant.
On the other hand, Jiten Bhai's small shop was vandalised by a few anti-immigrant rugs and he invested the £600 insurance money on a 66:1 wager that had India winning the World Cup. This moment of madness angered his wife but luckily, he went on to win the wager and opened two new shops with that money.
Rajdeep Sardesai and Ayaz Memon
Son of famous cricketer Dileep Sardesai, Rajdeep Sardesai, an 18-year-old rookie was playing club cricket as a semi-professional at that point of time. On the other hand, Ayaz Memon, a rookie journalist working for Mid-Day was in England to cover his first major tournament. They weren't related to each other but it was just a case of them being at the right place and at the right time to witness India's game-changing triumph.
Overall, it was a fantastic book for any person to read, not just for cricket fans given the fact that life as a whole has been explored through different personalities. Apart from a few proof-reading mistakes here and there like misspelling Arendel for Arundel, 'Miracle for Men-The Greatest Underdog Story In Cricket' would be a very enjoyable read to revive a day, a tournament which changed Indian cricket for the good.
'Miracle Men: The Greatest Underdog Story In Cricket': Nikhil Naz, Hachette India, ₹399. Available on Flipkart and Amazon.Published 15 Jul 2019, 18:23 IST