Cricket a la Modi. As someone who spends a lot of time choosing titles, I want to congratulate Astill for being among the best. Perhaps the best among the best is a chapter called In the Land of the Blind. The next unstated line is “a one-eyed man is king”, and the chapter is about the brilliance of Mansur Ali Khan, Nawab of Pataudi, a batsman who would easily be among the greatest if he had not lost one eye in a freak car accident.
Boundaries of Belief is about Hindus and Muslims, and about India and Pakistan. I will confess, there were times when I cried. Astill elicits genuine sympathy from the reader about the complexity of the relationship between twins separated at birth. There is the story of a small Pakistani boy asking Irfan Pathan why, being Muslim, he was not playing for Pakistan. And then there is the story of the extremely talented Pakistani bowler Mohammed Asif, who was arrested and convicted for spot-fixing. Astill implicitly suggests, and I fully agree, that the banning of Pakistani players from IPL provided an “incentive” for young, talented “players” from Pakistan to succumb to the money provided by match-fixing.
One of the major themes in subcontinental cricket is corruption and in his understated style, Astill provides enough evidence to suggest that cricket administration here is corrupt, very corrupt. But there is hope across the border. The respected and honest Najam Sethi has been appointed head of the Pakistan Cricket Board. We all know the depths to which Pakistani cricket had fallen, but there is hope with Sethi.
But can one say the same about India and the BCCI? Astill does not raise enough questions about cricket administration in India, though he is quite blunt about the nature of the administration: “the good of Indian cricket is not the chief priority of the politicians who run the BCCI. They are mainly concerned to perpetuate their power”. But why is corruption so rampant, allegedly, in the Indian body?
Could one explanation be that cricket administration in India has no players involved? Could another explanation be