Fourteen-year-old Manjunath Kumar knows he can become the second-best cricketer in India. Of course, his older brother Radha will be the best because their father Mohan has trained them to believe that. Having moved to Mumbai to chase their cricketing dreams, the boys practice daily to appease their father. But they also believe they are destined for success. However, just like Tendulkar and Kambli — two childhood friends destined for cricketing greatness — it appears that one might succeed while the other fails. As the boys grapple with their transition from grade school cricket to potentially making it in the big leagues, they have to also deal with their tyrannical father, the possible scout, Tommy Sir, their ‘manager’, Mr Mehta, the charms of Javed Ansari, another young cricketer and most of all, their rivalry with one another.
Will they become the best batsmen after Sachin Tendulkar?
Will their brotherly relationship survive if only one makes it?
Aravind Adiga has used cricket — an obsession in India — to depict success and failure in his most recent novel. While on the surface, the book is about cricket, the corruption and the fanaticism that comes with it, there is much more to this story. It is about brothers and relationships, about fathers and their sons, about sexuality and more specifically, homosexuality in a country that still considers it illegal in some parts.
I preferred this book to his award-winning The White Tiger possibly because of the cricket but more so, because of the familiarity in the book. It wasn’t just the conservative mentality and the pressure on young people to be what their parents want them to be but also, the familiarity of place. Adiga has based most of his book in Mumbai but there are also parts in Navi Mumbai, which is where I lived for a decade of my life and where I still go back to in order to visit my parents. He has the locations, the sights, the sounds and the smells all down perfectly and in some ways, he gives you a tour not just of human emotions but also of the place.
Where to find the book:
Until next time,