'Pundits from Pakistan' by Rahul Bhattacharya, an all-time cricket classic is available with a new preface by the author, and new interesting photographs. the book also won the Crossword Award for Popular Books in 2005.
Here's one part of the new preface:
It was an innocence hard won. We are accustomed to thinking of India-Pakistan cricket as a metaphor for war and peace. It is easy to forget that at one time, for cricketers as for others, the division of India and Pakistan was indeed a matter of life and death.
Consider the stories of the two great Punjabi players, Lala Amarnath and Fazal Mahmood.
Born to a Brahmin family in Kapurthala, Amarnath blossomed in the metropolis of Lahore, giving himself to cricket in the famous Minto Park, finding himself in occasional streetfights between the Hindu and Muslim teams, and making his name as a dashing batsman and keeper of quick feet and fast hands.
Years later at the Bombay Gymkhana, against Douglas Jardine's England, he hooked and cover-drove to become India's first Test match centurion; and showered with ornaments and watches and jewellery and gold coins, he made his way back to the ecstatic pavilion.
About the same time, the winter of 1933, back in Lahore, a six-year-old boy was taking his first steps in cricket with his father, who had just started a cricket team for Islamia College. In another decade the boy would grow into the Fazal Mahmood the world came to know: beautifully built, with startling blue eyes and jet-black greased and parted Cary Grant hair, a seam bowler of exquisite skill and extreme stamina. In the 1940s Fazal participated in the Muslim League's rallies. When he made his first-class debut at Patiala in 1944, just 17, his first victim was Lala Amarnath.
Even in momentous years, life went on in so many ways. It was in 1947 that the All India team was to make its first ever tour of Australia. There was huge anticipation about playing against Don Bradman and the team that would go on to be remembered as the Invincibles. Even though the tour would only commence in winter, the Indian squad was announced as early as March. Fazal Mahmood, the rising star, was picked. Within a few months there would be no India as anybody had known it.
Fazal was in Poona for a preparatory camp at the time of Partition. It rained continuously in Poona. The camp was cancelled. He began his long journey back to Lahore. This, he noted, 'was difficult amid the bloodshed and carnage in some parts of the subcontinent'. C.K. Nayudu, the first Test captain of All
India, was on the same train. 'There were a couple of extremists who wanted to harm me,' recalled Fazal in his memoirs, From Dusk to Dawn, 'but C.K. Nayudu very effectively saved me from them. He pulled out his bat and told them to keep away from me.' From Bombay, he managed to get to Karachi. Three days later, exhausted, he reached Lahore.
Lala Amarnath was in Patiala around that time. He lost his ancestral house in Lahore, with all its possessions, including the Gunn & Moor 'non-jar' bat which had struck India's first century. On a train journey to Delhi to finalize the team for the Australian tour, he witnessed a horrifying 'bloodbath in my compartment by a frenzied mob'. He noticed a few 'well-built men began looking and whispering to one another and pointing fingers at me'. Fearing for his life, he disembarked at Ambala where a police officer who recognized him got him a Sikh's karra to wear on the wrist. When the men saw Amarnath again they spotted the karra and let him off. 'Thank God,' they told him, 'we were planning to kill you before Karnal.'
Both men were devastated by the scenes they witnessed, the butchery they had escaped.
'I had grown up in pre-Partition India and had seen communal clashes,' Fazal would recall. 'But the ferocity, savagery, and bloodshed that was committed during Partition jolted me. I did not have the faintest idea that there existed such deep rooted hatred among the people who had been living together for decades.'
He decided to pull out of the tour of Australia. His friend and elder Lala Amarnath sent him a telegram exhorting him to reconsider. Thereafter, the chief ministers of the two Punjabs tried to persuade him. Fazal asked the Pakistani, 'Barrey bhai, do you want me to bring laurels for India?'
And so Lala Amarnath, the Hindu Lahori, became the first captain of independent India. Fazal Mahmood, the Muslim Lahori, delayed his entry into Test cricket by five years, till his new country, Pakistan, had its own team. His first Test wicket? Lala Amarnath.
Born in trauma, India-Pakistan cricket is also the story of India and Pakistan. Six decades have seen extended interruptions for wars, militant infiltration and terrorist attacks. When we do play, the game may be accompanied by communal tensions somewhere, or firing along the Line of Control.
In the spring of 2004, India undertook its first full tour to Pakistan in fourteen years. There was optimism in the air.
The disillusionment of the 2001 Agra Summit had worn off. The insanity of the nuclear standoff in 2002 had abated. The Kargil war, five years old, had receded from public memory. The Samjhauta Express was running again. Prime Minister Vajpayee and General Musharraf were keen to make a fresh start. It was time to play cricket. Yet, nobody expected the cricket tour to pick up the phenomenal momentum that it did.
It was a remarkable moment in subcontinental history. Travelling restrictions were eased to allow an unprecedented number of ordinary Indians into Pakistan. Once in Pakistan, we were treated like long-lost brothers. People gathered around the cricket as around a campfire. I was told by many Pakistanis that I was the first Hindu they had met or the first Indian they had met. I had never known a Pakistani before. The writer Osman Samiuddin, with whom I frequently shared rooms on the tour, would become a dear friend. We would pretend we were sick of this sentiment of dosti!
Published by: Penguin Books India; Extent: 360pp with 8pp coloured illustrations; Category: Non-Fiction, Sports; Price: Rs 399