Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: Cricket Till I Die! by Upneet Grover.

'Cricket Till I Die!' is the anthem of a nation... as well as the debut novel of Upneet Grover. Thanks to my Blogger Friend – Preeti – I got to read and review this one... in the middle of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Talk about timing! The book certainly consulted the (printing) stars before making its appearance *grin* I said 'Cricket Till I Die!' is the anthem of a nation earlier. Well, on second thoughts... not quite. For our Bollywood beauties... it was, is and always will be '18 Till I Die'. Rest assured. Anybody wearing noodle straps... would not be a day more than sweet sixteen! *wink*

Well, first things first. The book feels good to hold... the production quality is pretty good and the book jacket cover is the star attraction. It captures your attention... instantly. This should be music to the author and publisher's ears... since it is a reader's 'first impress-aan izz last impress-aan'. The language is simple and not overly flowery... with the author keeping the management and cricketing jargon to a minimum. The book is written in the first person... with the protagonist (Vineet Grover) narrating his story and/or the events. The author uses real-world language and expressions... the "guys kinda language"... which enhances the effect and makes it more identifiable. For the guys at least *wink* If this book were to appear in its celluloid avatar... there would be several 'beeps'. Trust me...

Vineet Grover is a 22-year-old IT guy... 'working' in Infotech Ltd... from where he desperately seeks an escape. His hardly working ways... not having earned him the very deserving 'pink slip'! Not that he is complaining though. The salary enables him to lead the good life... while enjoying his 'dessert' in the shape of the delectable Sonali. All this time... with the gorgeous Simi head over heels in love with him... but then that's just one-way traffic. For any other guy... this would be THE life they would have always wanted to live. But not Vineet! He plans to do his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from a tier 1 institute... and earn mega bucks being a high flying, glib talking, soulless manager. All the while considering cricket as his religion and worshipping at the altar of Virender Sehwag aka Viru Bhai!

A chance encounter with the tough guy with a heart of gold - Mr. Sharma – a coach with a nondescript local cricket club... changes his well thought out plans. This club quite simply leaves most people stone cold... being the epitome of the nondescript club that makes up the numbers but never hogs the limelight. But what does it do to Vineet? Mr. Sharma reminds you of Naseeruddin Shah's character in 'Iqbal'. ... Lady Luck smiles on Vineet... and he gets an opportunity to play for the Delhi Daredevils (in IPL 3) alongside his idol... Virender Sehwag. But can he ace the tough selection process? What happens to his MBA ambitions? Does he bell the CAT in the first place? Well, read the book to find out. Who is the enigmatic Simi? Is she the slightly 'slow', simple, attractive girl that Vineet knew from his Infotech days? Will Vineet have an affair with Lady Luck... both ethereal and mortal? Is he selfish in love? Well you got to read the book to know that too. Along the way... also getting to read about the fast ones that Vineet has been pulling on all and sundry at regular intervals… and not just on the cricket field. Howzzat!

'Cricket Till I Die!' gives some insights into the sweat, grind and the unglamorous side of cricket and cricketers... our permanent religion and temporary gods. But who are the Godfathers? How does selection happen? Is merit the only criteria? How did the 'talented' Vaibhav get into the team? Errr... don't we all know that the scion of a certain practitioner of polytricks who had planted a 'fruuut tareee' while earning 'karores and karores'... even making the already bechara cows and buffaloes very, very be-chara... made it to the Delhi Daredevils? So... what does Vineet do?

Does he live his dream? Does he don the Delhi Daredevils' jersey? Does he get to wear the India colours? Or does Lord Fate join hands with Lady Luck to script a different story? One constant in Vineet's life is Hardik... his friend who is more than a brother to him. What does Hardik do... every time Vineet faces a test/opportunity? Is blood really thicker than water? Is 'Just Do It' the way to go? Or is grin and 'beer' it better?

Btw... hopefully – Paul Henry - the Kiwi television anchor that made some obscene remarks/jokes at the expense of Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit... by making fun of her surname... has not laid his hands on this book. Else he'll do an encore with 'Hardik'. But then that would mean free international publicity for this book... so much so that the 'Man of the match' and the 'Player of the tournament' might be awarded a whole truckload of 'Cricket Till I Die!' While Upneet gets to be the person handing over the World Cup to the winning Captain! What?

Some events in this book have shades of '3 Idiots'... while others have a distinct 'Forrest Gump' flavour. Interspersed with thumping cricketing action and corporate inaction... 'Cricket Till I Die!' makes for an interesting read... and a light read. Its light on the wallet too! One can finish the book in one sitting itself... that is one of its USP. If you are hard pressed for time... 2-3 days should suffice. The readers can connect with this book and with Vineet's passion for cricket and career dilemma. Those of us who have dreamt of playing electrifying cricket in a stadium full of people and performing at the highest level. Bringing laurels to the country... and being the toast of this cricket-worshipping nation... will rejoice with the successes of the protagonist and feel low with his setbacks. The book has a positive message and leaves the reader with a positive feeling. There really are no nondescript clubs, no teams that leave everyone cold, and no 'shithole'. Every club... could be your life. Well... almost.

Suggestions: Several typos... need to be corrected. The printer's devil has left its footprints in many places... resulting in poor grammar... and spelling Bee being all at sea. Simi and Sonali interchange and so do Mr. Chawla and Mr. Sharma (the coach). Identity crises you see. AB De Velliers vilify... while the god of cricket – Sachin Tendulkar wasn't 39 during IPL 3. He still isn't (having been born on 24th April 1973) and IPL 4 is barely a couple of months away. Nor were Jacques Kallis 36 years of age during the 3rd edition of the cricket IPill... oops IPL. The protagonist – Vineet Grover – oscillates between 22/23/24. No that's not his vital stats... but the number of years he has spent on this planet. And there is no indication that he was born on a 'leap year'! Plus opening a 'bottle of chilled bear'… may not be the idea of an ideal romantic lunch/dinner. Pass the smelling salt please!

My Rating: I'll give it a good 3/5. It is a good effort by a debutant author... who also worships at the altar of Virender Sehwag... and eats, sleeps, drinks, thinks and writes cricket. As to whether Vineet Grover is Upneet Grover's alter ego... or if the book contains some bits and pieces from his own life... well your guess is as good as mine! Happy reading!

Details of the book: Cricket Till I Die!: Upneet Grover, pp 191, Paperback, English, Rs.150, ISBN: 8122311741, Cedar Books - Pustak Mahal.

Note: Upneet Grover: Face book page.

Photograph: The book jacket cover of 'Cricket Till I Die!'. Picture courtesy: link.

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