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May 3, 2011

Book Review - 25 : The Game Changers

Author: The Fake IPL Player (FIP)

Publisher: Harper Collins India

Indian Bollywood League, India's premier T20 cricket tournament, is all set for its second edition. With the hard cash that it spins around, the league is as much about cricket as it is about the stars involved - both on the field and off it. Upsetting the apple-cart for many of them is FIP, the Fake IBL player, spreading gossip and tainting reputations with the scandalous revelations on his blog. Now super-sleuth Parminder Mahipal Singh a.k.a Detective PMS, has been roped in to go undervcover and find the treacherous 'rat'. With big bucks, bigger personalities and fragile egos battling for supremacy, can politics, conspiracy and deception be far behind? Will PMS be able to stop the Fake IBL player from spreading his poison?

TGC is a compelling cast of characters from Kings of Bollywood, glamorous starlets, cricketing demi-gods, business tycoons; a setting where everyone has something to gain and a whole lot to lose during this 35-day extravaganza. It also gives an inside view of what exactly does happen behind the scenes in cricket's richest league. FIP blog in 2009 developed a cult following and this book extrapolates it further in the realms of fictional events and incidents. The book is thoughtful and provoking, yet provides insight to those little nuances of cricket.

The main punching point about the blog or even the book is how uneasily it mixes fact and fiction in equal proportions, never making any pretension of crossing those sacred lines. It is not an easy story to appreciate specially if you are not very well versed with cricketers and IPL teams. There is a story within a story, each of the characters has two names - one in the story, one on the blog, and add a third one if you connect it to real cricketers. This just increases the possibility that you may miss some of the in-jokes. At 400 odd pages, no doubt it is long but with brisk narrative and short crispy chapters, the author keep the interest alive. His trademark tongue-in-cheek humour is pretty evident here. My only regret are the portions cut-paste from his blog entries of IPL-2. Someone who has followed his writings in 2009 will find them repetitive and to an extent, boring.

The sub-plots involving the Indian cricket captain’s love interest and the power equations in the cricketing world, add the right masala ingredients to make it a Bollywood potboiler. The digs on SRK or Sreesanth alike characters are exactly what legends are made up of. However, my favourite portion in the book is when the actions of FIP are compared to a poker player towards the climax. It is engrossing because here FIP deliberates how he made a fool of everyone by just observing reactive action of the players and reading their minds, but at the same time making sure not to reveal his own true identity.

I am going with 3/5 for FIP's, The Game Changers. People who don't follow cricket may be bored with it, but then this book is not meant for such philistine people in any case. The message is pretty clear, the cricket in IBL is strictly secondary... the machinations and the mind-games behind the scenes is what makes this tournament so exciting. Worth reading for all those cricket fanatics!

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