Sports books: inspiring youth

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Sachin Tendulkar’s Playing it My Way (launched in November 2014) created a records in sale of 1,50,000 copies in a week in India. Here, Theo of The Maritime Sports look at how sports books fared in the Indian market earlier. India publishes the most number of cricket books in the world including reprints. Every year, there are over 50 new titles released in cricket, while 10 in other sports. The usual print run is 1,000 copies. Here, we analyse how sports books have fared in India.

Ajit Wadekar’s My Cricketing Years, was the first with high sales of 25,000 in 70s and was a huge success though literacy was low, but the success in West Indies and England added to the sales and the hardback edition was priced at Rs 15 which was considered high in those days, when Nawab of Pataudi’s Tiger’s Tale was priced at Rs 2. Sunil Gavaskar’s Idols five years later crossed the record of Geoffery Boycott’s Put to the Test which did 65,000, mainly as Sunil was at the top then and Air India use the word ‘Idols’ in the countrywide Ad campaign and it was out during an India-England series. But over the years Sunil Gavaskar’s Sunny Days went into twelve editions and is still selling, thanks to the publishers – Rupa & Co, who have kept the print run going. So inspiring is the book that today grandfathers are buying these for their grandchildren. Thousands of cricketers must have been motivated through this book. Ask any cricketer which are the books they have read, Sunny Days will definitely be in the list. Not so successful were Runs ‘n Ruins and One Day Wonders which came from the pen of Sunil.

During the same time, Sandeep Patil’s Sandy Storm was not that successful too as his career was taking a low dive due to internal problems in his personal life. When Sachin in his early days was asked which is the book he read, he mentioned Gary Sobers’ Twenty Years at the Top, this title first appeared in England in hardback and later in paperback, unfortunately the paperback edition was remaindered and sold in India at Rs 20, which was dirt cheap in the 80s.

Talking of inspiration through books Don Bradman’s The Art of Cricket published in 1945, went into several editions worldwide and could have helped thousand of cricketers, Rupa published this title for India. Don Bradman’s Farewell to Cricket, Rohan Kanhai’s Blasting for Runs which must have inspired Sunil, Alan Davidson’s Fifteen Paces were all books that inspired cricketers. Mushtaq Ali’s Cricket Delightful, Vijay Hazare’s My Story and Erapalli Prasanna’s One More Over contributed in their own way. Sudhir Vaidya’s Figures of Cricket, first published at Rs 5 by Asia Publishing House, later by Bombay Cricket Association and then by The Marine Sports generated statisticians through the country and at one point India could easily boast of the most number of statisticians in the world, so inspiring was the book that statistics were discussed in Bombay local train, bets were laid on statistics and every second cricket enthusiasts turned to statistics. Rait Kerr’s Cricket Umpiring and Scoring and now revised by Tom Smith have churned out umpires as much as cricketers worldwide.

In other sports Bobby Fischer’s My 60 Memorable Games brought in the chess enthusiast, Pele’s Man and the Beautiful Game brought in footballers and so also Referee Chart brought in referees. Dhyan Chand’s Goal published in English and Hindi brought in hockey players while Horst Wein’s Science of Hockey was also inspiring. Gian Singh books on hockey and football on coaching and refereeing in English and Hindi churned out players and referees, mostly from the North and for many years. Jal Pardivala’s Athletics Competition Guide drew officials in India.

While we are at this, books on Sachin were the most produced than any other sportsmen in the world, the first to write was his brother Ajit which also came in Marathi, writers like Rajan Bala, Gulu Ezekiel which came in three other Indian languages, Vaibhau Purandare, Vimal Kumar, Khalid Ansari & Clayton Muzello, Neelima Athalye, V. Krishnaswamy, Suresh Menon, Suvam Pal, Gautam Bhattacharya, Vijay Santhanam & Shyam Balasubramanian, Sumit Chakraberty, ESPN Cricinfo, Jai Narayan Ram for The Times of India, Mumbai Cricket Association when Sachin scored 10,000 runs and finally Dilip D’Souza on his final Test, from England we had a writer Adam Carroll-Smith, from West Indies Clifford Narinsingh and Australia Peter Murray. Books on Kapil Dev also sold well, beside his two autobiographies Cricket My Style and the recent Straight from the Front, a coffee table book, the only one of its kind so far by any Indian sportsmen.

Before Kapil, many books on Hazare were published in English and Marathi, mostly through the pen of Dr Vasant Naik. Sachin’s autobiography will definitely produce the next crop of cricketers, will break all records in sports publishing. With the English edition and with edition in every Indian language, it will definitely break records and also churn out cricketers for generations to come.

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