“281 And Beyond” by V V S Laxman, with R Kaushik.


For thousands of cricket fans in India, V V S Laxman has to be one of the classiest batsmen to have donned the India colours. His batting was characterized by grace, elegance, and a certain style which most cannot emulate. He was a worthy successor to other elegant Hyderabadi batsmen before him, like M L Jaisimha and Mohammad Azharuddin.

In his recent book, “281 And Beyond” , we get to know Laxman the person more than just Laxman the stylish batsman. Written in collaboration with R Kaushik, the Hyderabad -based cricket writer, this book gives the reader insight into Laxman’s travails and triumphs playing cricket for India at the highest level.

There were many triumphs, to be sure. On top of the list has to be his 281 in the Kolkatta test of 2001 against the Australians. How he and Rahul Dravid put together a 376 run partnership versus the mighty Australians is a legend in modern day cricket. India won the match despite having followed on! Laxman’s 281 was, at that time, the highest ever individual score by an Indian Test batsman.

This apart, there have many more occasions when Laxman has saved the day for India. After all in a career over 15 years, he scored over 8500 runs in 134 Tests with 17 centuries and an average of 45.97

Laxman’s travails came from his not being a sure shot member of the playing XI of the Indian cricket team of his time, unlike say a Tendulkar, a Dravid, a Sehwag , or a Ganguly. He was shuffled in the batting order many times, and was pushed into opening the batting which was not something he particularly enjoyed.

As Laxman’s career developed, another phenomenon came up which made his place in the Indian cricket team more insecure. This was the advent of 50 over cricket and later T20 cricket via the Indian Premier League (IPL). In both cases, Laxman had the disadvantage of being branded a “Test batsman. ” In addition, not being electric in the field, he lost out to others who were considered more adept in these newer and far more popular versions of the game.

In my view, what shines all through the book is Laxman’s description of his upbringing, values and work ethic which is so typical of the hard working middle class/professional stock he came from. He describes in detail how he had to make an important decision: whether to pursue his studies in medicine ( both his parents being doctors) or to be a professional cricketer.

Laxman’s career statistics are far more impressive than many would imagine. A short summary of his career figures in the book even as a end-of-the-book book summary, would, I believe, have publicized his cricketing achievements and enhanced the value of his accomplishments.

Highly recommended for all cricket lovers as Laxman was one of the finest players of his generation.

“Winning Like Sourav: Think & Succeed Like Ganguly” by Abhirup Bhattacharya

Today’s post is about  “Winning Like Sourav: Think & Succeed Like Ganguly” by Abhirup Bhattacharya, who has a degree in Fashion Technology and MBA in Finance from the well know Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai.  The book has recently been published by Rupa Publications.

Way back in 1992, a young cricketer from Kolkatta was selected to tour Australia and didn’t do much on the tour. The 18 year old Sourav Ganguly returned with a dip in his reputation rather than a boost in his career. There were snide remarks that he was selected through favouritism under the “East Zone quota”,  gossip that his team mates found him arrogant for one so inexperienced and a mere 3 runs to show from his only appearance in One Day Internationals. Cut to 1996, and four years later, Sourav Ganguly is the talk of town. His century (131) on Test debut at Lord’s, followed by another (136) at Trent Bridge a few weeks later showed the world that Ganguly the player had emerged from the shadows of the past. Now he is lauded, and rightly so, for all his cricketing feats including of course his captaincy.

After all years later, the great Sachin Tendulkar said of Ganguly, “Sourav’s greatest strength is his mind. He is hard working – not only in the nets but also mentally. He bounces back.” One also remembers another Indian cricketing “great”, Rahul Dravid, famously say, “On the offside, first  there is God, then there is Ganguly.”!!

Apart from the 21 Test wins out of 49 under his leadership, ( 11 of them overseas) he is remembered for his mentoring of many young cricketers who became famous over time, men like Yuvaraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zahir Khan and the unforgettable Virender Sehwag, but to name a few. As a top order batsman, in summary, he amassed 11363 runs in 311 ODIs at an average of 41 and a strike rate of 72, with 22 centuries. In the 113 Tests he played, he scored 7212 runs at an average of 42 with 16 centuries.

Looking back to those times, there is no doubt that he injected a fighting spirit in the Indian cricket team which was down in the dumps when he was appointed captain in 2000. The match fixing scandal had scalped senior players like Azharuddin, the captain; Ajay Jadeja; and Nayan Mongia and Ganguly inherited a team which had potential but was down in morale.

The book is however not just about Ganguly the cricketer. ” Dada”, as he was popularly called by his team mates and millions of his fans world wide, used a variety of techniques to mould the team to a fighting unit. Abhirup Bhattacharya relates in management speak just how Ganguly achieved what he did. Be it in leadership, in mentoring, in strategy or in risk taking, the author maps Ganguly’s achievements with certain well established principles. Each chapter has “Learning Tips” which are enough to succinctly convey important messages to the readers.

I wish there was more incidents in the book of Ganguly the cricketer apart from the more famous ones that everyone has read about or seen on television. However, it must be said that a lot has been crammed into 145 pages.

Students of management as well as cricket fans would enjoy this book. It is a fitting tribute to one whom Geoffrey Boycott fondly called,  “The Prince of Calcutta.”