I picked up Beyond the Boundary by C.L.R.James, expecting it to be an interesting light read. I was in for a surprise. It was far from it – a deep look into the complex inter-weaving connections between cricket and racism, culture, tradition, history, literature, arts and human nature.
The language is worthy of a classic. The thought process belonged to a clear analytical intelligent mind. The Anglo-Caribbean roots and therefore, a heavy bias, are obvious; there are no efforts to mask it.
To me, the important takeaways are two:
First, my long-standing addiction to cricket is vindicated, in a way. I have always tried to see more in cricket, than cricketers knew. James has done the same. The manner in which he has established cricket as a true art form, inferior to none, makes me feel better about the inordinate amount of time I have spent watching sports and all the classes and exams that I had bunked for watching cricket matches, and that too, the lost causes.
Second, like in fashion and economics, sports also seems not to be immune to cycles. Test cricket, in the early half of last century, looks to have been played a lot more ‘aggressively’ than the latter half. It is only in the 50s, that the slow snail-pace of scoring has set into the game. Now most traditionalists think that test matches need to be played at a leisurely pace; a forward defensive stroke with a straight bat is as elegant as any other. James discloses something entirely different. He, writing in late 50s, finds it to be a ‘new’ affliction. He abhores the new tendency of batsmen, to avoid hitting against the break and not moving to the pitch of the ball, when playing the spinners.
So, anybody who thinks that Sehwag is rash, should go and read this book. The Sehwags and the Pietersons are the true traditionalists – not the Dravids, Gavaskars and Boycotts. Can someone ask Tendulkar to read or re-read this book – he might rediscover his lost cricketing soul in the words, “the only way to counter a dominating bowler is to dominate the bowler”.