As with Peter Oborne’s A History of Cricket in Pakistan, when reading James Astill’s The Great Tamasha, not only do you learn about cricket but the country as a whole.
Firstly, let’s get the criticism out of the way. Occasionally Astill dismisses the careers of some domestic players whose batting averages weren’t particularly lofty. Whilst he draws attention to the fact that many players were presented with opportunities that they didn’t merit, one or two mentioned deserve a little more respect. There are ranges in people’s abilities in all walks of life and not every batsman in Indian domestic cricket can average north of sixty.
Moving on, what rings true in Astill’s work is that he’s clearly immersed himself in local culture. He’s lived and breathed the streets, slums and cricket fields of India and not just the tourist spots. Astill performed many interviews with folk who are or were involved in the game at all levels of the cricket spectrum. It is interesting to have read this book five or six years since publication. The IPL is clearly still very much part of the cricket calendar even though there was great uncertainty and controversy during and before the time of writing.
Lalit Modi courts a lot of page time as do the owners of the IPL franchises. Astill’s explanations of why Indian’s watch cricket and their reasons for doing so are particularly insightful.
For enthusiastic fans of the global game, this is essential reading and scores…
84 not out