Elephant in the Stadium by Arunabha Sengupta

Elephant in the Stadium
by Arunabha Sengupta

Published by:
Pitch Publishing
A2 Yeoman Gate, Yeoman Way,
Worthing, Sussex BN13 3QZ

Website: www.pitchpublishing.co.uk, info@pitchpublishing.co.uk

Pages: 462

MRP: £16.99

Copies can be bought from www.pitchpublishing.co.uk/shop/elephant-stadium


Although India had beaten England in India on three occasions and also won the 1961-62 series, it was only in 1971 that they beat the same opposition in England and, in doing so, that famous victory at The Oval sealed their first series win in England also. It is this which is the subject of Arunabha Sengupta's fascinating book, Elephant in the Stadium.

India's Test bow was at Lord's in 1932 and, whilst they had won Tests and series against other countries both in India and, in the few preceding years before the 1971 tour, outside of India, it is this tour which could be viewed as a breakthrough for the Indian team.

Elephant in the Stadium is, though, so much more than a detailed account of the cricket played. There are extensively-written chapters on all matches played, and not just the Tests. It seems to have been a rather wet English summer too. Arunabha Sengupta is an historian and his book has been meticulously researched - and I daresay took a while to write - and highlights the differences in attitude in days of yore via his own observations and those of others as well as giving a thorough history of India before and after Independence in 1947. Anyone wanting a definitive history of India alongside her cricket should look no further than this book.

The many added nuggets of boxed information throughout the book (including, inter alia, Gandhi the lob bowler; Quickest duck(a story unrelated to cricket), and Mother India (about female voting in India)),both about cricket and other aspects, add much to the book's interests. It is almost impossible not to learn a lot from the book.

Arunabha's detailed analysis of India in the days of British rule in India makes for interesting reading. He brings in many other aspects including the attitudes of the times and of the ruling classes both in cricket, in India and in England, and the respective countries. It is bravely written. Comments made by cricketers before undertaking a tour of India from the 1950s are interesting although, as one who has visited this remarkable country on over forty occasions yet having taken six visits to become comfortable with its wide-ranging culture, I maybe could understand.

To better my understanding of India during the Raj period, I have read other books on the subject but must admit that Elephant in the Stadium, a book combining both cricket (before, during and after the 1971 tour) and Indian history is ideal, certainly for me and quite likely for many others interested in both of these aspects. Mihir Bose, who has written many fascinating books on the history of Indian cricket, has provided the foreword.

Other, perhaps more modern-day, aspects are explored and compared to earlier events. Cricket selection in both India and England is mentioned so the book is far-reaching and extensive. Alongside the tour match details, world issues involving England, India and Pakistan are mentioned with further explanatory and helpful excerpts which add a better understanding of India. For example, language, India being very much more than Hindi. All subjects throughout this fascinating book are lavished with plenty of examples.

India's feat occurred fifty years ago last year. The book ends with a look at India's cricket since then. If I may say so, quite a transformation.
And where does the elephant come into it? Bella, a two-year-old from Chessington Zoo, was paraded about the outfield during India's victorious Oval victory in 1971 and, whilst the camera caught her at a time when she was not looking as ecstatic as India's supporters would later be, her photo (the one on the cover naturally), has gone down as one of cricket's iconic photographs. Bella lived until 1990.