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Away from ‘colonial gaze’, new book looks at cricket’s rich, layered history in Sri Lanka

Published by Penguin India, 'An Island's Eleven' will be released on ThePrint's Softcover on 27 January.

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New Delhi: Considering the adulation Sri Lankan cricket inspires, not much has been written on the subject, British author Nicholas Brooks says in his book An Island’s Eleven: A History of Cricket in Sri Lanka”. So, he takes on the task and delivers – immersing the reader in the game’s rich, layered history in the island nation. Brooks maps out Sri Lankan cricket’s journey, with all its trials and tribulations.

“With the possible exception of Clive Loyd’s West Indies, no side has defied the odds so often. In my mind, no other team’s cricket has carried such a strong national identity nor rivalled Sri Lanka’s freewheeling invention and ingenuity. Yet, of the established nations, only Bangladesh has received less coverage,” writes Brooks.

Published by Penguin India, the book will be released on ThePrint’s Softcover, a digital platform to launch select non-fiction books, on 27 January.

In the past, Brooks says that writing on Sri Lankan cricket was “dominated by a colonial gaze” and with the condescension that came with it

He dives into the subject with astonishing detail and clarity. The book is divided into six parts, each of which chronicles a different time period. It takes off from 1796 and ends in 2014, shedding light on 218 years of cricket.

He also spends time talking about the “flow of cricket”, how it was transmitted from the British to Ceylon. Brooks informs that Sri Lanka’s first home grown cricketers were from the Burgher ethnicity and the game was slower to reach other ethnic groups. He also mentions that the early attempts to influence the Sinhalese were not particularly fruitful.

“Equally, cricket’s growth was slowed by a colonial paradox. The British –- who introduced, promoted and sought to spread the game –- hindered its progress by wilfully excluding locals on the field and by behaving in cruel and superior manner off it,” says Brooks.

Brooks is a writer who has been based in Colombo since April 2018. He has covered Sri Lankan cricket, as well as its history extensively. He has written for various international publications, including ESPN’s The Cricket Monthly and Wisden’s The Nightwatchman.

This wonderful book, based on compendious research, tells the great story of Indian cricket. It has been written with real passion and understanding. A great debut from a serious sports historian,” says Peter Oborn, author of the bestselling Wounded Tiger: A History of Cricket in Pakistan.

Sports writer Siddharth Vaidyanathan refers to it as both “a meticulously researched history and a love letter to Sri Lankan cricket.”

Also read: ‘Mr Kashmir’ A.S. Dulat’s memoir sheds light on the life of a spymaster


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