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The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption, and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India

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To understand modern India, one must look at the business of cricket within the country. When Lalit Modi--an Indian businessman with a criminal record, a history of failed business ventures, and a reputation for audacious deal making--created a Twenty20 cricket league in India in 2008, the odds were stacked against him. International cricket was still controlled from London To understand modern India, one must look at the business of cricket within the country. When Lalit Modi--an Indian businessman with a criminal record, a history of failed business ventures, and a reputation for audacious deal making--created a Twenty20 cricket league in India in 2008, the odds were stacked against him. International cricket was still controlled from London, where they played the long, slow game of Test cricket by the old rules. Indians had traditionally underperformed in the sport but the game remained a national passion. Adopting the highly commercial American model of sporting tournaments, and throwing scantily clad western cheerleaders into the mix, Modi gave himself three months to succeed. And succeed he did--dazzlingly--before he and his league crashed to earth amid astonishing scandal and corruption. The emergence of the IPL is a remarkable tale. Cricket is at the heart of the miracle that is modern India. As a business, it represents everything that is most dynamic and entrepreneurial about the country's economic boom, including the industrious and aspiring middle-class consumers who are driving it. The IPL also reveals, perhaps to an unprecedented degree, the corrupt, back-scratching, and nepotistic way in which India is run. A truly original work by a brilliant journalist, The Great Tamasha* makes the complexity of modern India--its aspiration and optimism straining against tradition and corruption--accessible like no other book has. *Tamasha: a Hindi world meaning "a spectacle."


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To understand modern India, one must look at the business of cricket within the country. When Lalit Modi--an Indian businessman with a criminal record, a history of failed business ventures, and a reputation for audacious deal making--created a Twenty20 cricket league in India in 2008, the odds were stacked against him. International cricket was still controlled from London To understand modern India, one must look at the business of cricket within the country. When Lalit Modi--an Indian businessman with a criminal record, a history of failed business ventures, and a reputation for audacious deal making--created a Twenty20 cricket league in India in 2008, the odds were stacked against him. International cricket was still controlled from London, where they played the long, slow game of Test cricket by the old rules. Indians had traditionally underperformed in the sport but the game remained a national passion. Adopting the highly commercial American model of sporting tournaments, and throwing scantily clad western cheerleaders into the mix, Modi gave himself three months to succeed. And succeed he did--dazzlingly--before he and his league crashed to earth amid astonishing scandal and corruption. The emergence of the IPL is a remarkable tale. Cricket is at the heart of the miracle that is modern India. As a business, it represents everything that is most dynamic and entrepreneurial about the country's economic boom, including the industrious and aspiring middle-class consumers who are driving it. The IPL also reveals, perhaps to an unprecedented degree, the corrupt, back-scratching, and nepotistic way in which India is run. A truly original work by a brilliant journalist, The Great Tamasha* makes the complexity of modern India--its aspiration and optimism straining against tradition and corruption--accessible like no other book has. *Tamasha: a Hindi world meaning "a spectacle."

30 review for The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption, and the Turbulent Rise of Modern India

  1. 4 out of 5

    Swati Garg

    I had planned on writing a long review for this book since it is about a thing i am really passionate for i.e. indian cricket But i'll just say two lines: Read it because you LOVE indian cricket, you'll get a reality check. Also read it because you HATE Indian Cricket, you'll find reasons to love it. I had planned on writing a long review for this book since it is about a thing i am really passionate for i.e. indian cricket But i'll just say two lines: Read it because you LOVE indian cricket, you'll get a reality check. Also read it because you HATE Indian Cricket, you'll find reasons to love it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Abhinav

    So much has been said about this book already in so many reviews - from the NYT & the Observer to the Telegraph & ESPN Cricinfo, to name a few - that I really don't have much to add to what they have written. All I will say is that anyone who invests his emotions whenever India's national cricket team takes the field should definitely give James Astill's "The Great Tamasha" a read, for it is a wonderful book about the past, present & what probably lies in the future of Indian cricket. So much has been said about this book already in so many reviews - from the NYT & the Observer to the Telegraph & ESPN Cricinfo, to name a few - that I really don't have much to add to what they have written. All I will say is that anyone who invests his emotions whenever India's national cricket team takes the field should definitely give James Astill's "The Great Tamasha" a read, for it is a wonderful book about the past, present & what probably lies in the future of Indian cricket.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Peter Karsten

    Messy journey through a messy country, guided by cricket. You need a guide in India. It might as well be cricket. Very interesting read about a complex continent.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Pranav Jagdish

    This book covers the rise of Indian cricket - from the days when it was merely a colonial obsession to now, when the BCCI practically owns cricket. It isn't a comprehensive review into any specific phase, Astill brushes through all the important points that factor into the rise of Indian cricket. This is the USP of The Great Tamasha, that it never reads like cricket history. It's riveting to read and being a fan of Indian cricket, it felt great to get an overall view of how far the game has come This book covers the rise of Indian cricket - from the days when it was merely a colonial obsession to now, when the BCCI practically owns cricket. It isn't a comprehensive review into any specific phase, Astill brushes through all the important points that factor into the rise of Indian cricket. This is the USP of The Great Tamasha, that it never reads like cricket history. It's riveting to read and being a fan of Indian cricket, it felt great to get an overall view of how far the game has come. The most interesting parts of the book was when Astill describes the prowess of great cricketers of the early 20th century. I never knew anything about Ranjitsinghji, C.K Nayudu or Tiger Pataudi. These are the true icons of cricket, personalities that shaped the future of cricket as a whole. The later chapters describing cricket post 2011 were familiar but I didn't feel like it just covered the main highlights of all the important events that occurred. That's the strength of this book in my opinion, how Astill somehow finds a way to make the mundane interesting. On the surface, this book only covers the rise of Indian cricket without getting into too much detail. However, there are always interviews and POVs from various cricket celebrities that always spice up a chapter. I'd highly recommend this book to any average cricket fan who doesn't have any idea of our rich cricket history. This book might seem slightly boring for someone totally up to speed but this is great starting point to get into Indian cricket history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lakshman Hariharan

    Must read for anyone that is a fan of the great game of cricket, India supporter or not.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mayur Patil

    This is the first book, I read about cricket. I really liked the way, Author has discussed lot of things from Indian society which are intertwined with the Cricket. While discussing Cricket, Authors has placed anecdotes from past, excerpts/observations from interviews, stories about Importance of cricket for poor people. Must read for Cricket fan.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Devendra

    I am not a frequent book reader but I plan to develop this as a habit, because this just helps. At my work place in author's read session that we have I got introduced to this book. The title was catchy and so was the book's random paragraphs that I mostly read before I really start reading a book. This revolves around Indian Cricket scene. I should not take away the credit from author to make the book a interesting read. It targets Indian cricket scene starting from late 19th century, how game w I am not a frequent book reader but I plan to develop this as a habit, because this just helps. At my work place in author's read session that we have I got introduced to this book. The title was catchy and so was the book's random paragraphs that I mostly read before I really start reading a book. This revolves around Indian Cricket scene. I should not take away the credit from author to make the book a interesting read. It targets Indian cricket scene starting from late 19th century, how game was introduced to India by the English. Author here brings the events and social changes that Cricket introduced in India. Author touches upon the many segments of society and his personal interview extracts with all levels of cricket lovers in India. Author also show the limitations that politics have placed into cricket and how it is used for some personal gains by the powerful decision makers. Events that changed cricket , match fixing, terror attacks on cricket players, cross border tension , Mumbai attacks etc. It is interesting also to know how corruption has deep rooted into the Indian political system. Sometimes the book makes me feel sorry to see the deserving not getting rewarded for the efforts and harsh reality they have to live with due to corruption and how the rules are modified for benefits of few . But also there are some stories that will make you feel and hope to work hard towards a goal. As a conclusion Author here is non biased and tries to introduces phases of development Indian cricket have gone. He touches upon social issues cricket have within Cricket Mad country - India. I learnt a lot of facts from the book related to cricket and also non cricket related . It's a read for someone who would to understand modern cricket, why is it the way it is today ( t20 , match fixing, power struggle … ) .

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kaustubh Kirti

    Great book full of real life characters, stories and realities from the on the field and off the field. What is best is the book tries to outline and define the politics and people behind this game . BCCI being one of the most strongest organisations in the entire world sits at the peak of cricket in the world. However the organisation is in rot. Driven by corruption and un wanted interventions in international schedules BCCI decides what will happen next. With such financial strength the organi Great book full of real life characters, stories and realities from the on the field and off the field. What is best is the book tries to outline and define the politics and people behind this game . BCCI being one of the most strongest organisations in the entire world sits at the peak of cricket in the world. However the organisation is in rot. Driven by corruption and un wanted interventions in international schedules BCCI decides what will happen next. With such financial strength the organisation had the capability to home grown India into a great cricketing paradise, inventing more into talents. Currently we see only players from middle class or upper class families embroiled themselves in betting scandals bu the aspirations of this countrymen at large remains unfulfilled. However what BCCI has given us Twenty 20, Lalit Modi and a further scoop of scandals. From behind the scenes the author has tried to sum up the above right from the birth of cricket in late 19th century and how it was picked up by Maharajas and Parsis. He adds the story of India cricketers post independence , effect of 1947 on cricket, Pataudi, Contracter etc. HE tells the story of how post 1990 when BCCI started arm twisting the international cricketing time tables and what we see is just what happened afterwards. Driven by money money the organisation and its people with no interest in the game have blatantly shammed the concept of test cricket in twenty20. The best part is definately the politics of the game and the downfall and ultimate ouster of Lalit Modi. Great read and especially for someone who follows cricket diehard might relate to some of the matches which the author describes on the way.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bharathi

    It is a brilliant book. Much like the Economist for which James Astill works, it is well researched, provocative and more importantly spot on. I have not read any other book or article which describes the corruption in India better or with an understanding of what its consequences will be. This is remarkable. Another important thing for me is that he reminded me some of the best times in Indian cricket. Kapil Dev's thrilling 175 against Zimbabwe, the wins against Australia and England and of cou It is a brilliant book. Much like the Economist for which James Astill works, it is well researched, provocative and more importantly spot on. I have not read any other book or article which describes the corruption in India better or with an understanding of what its consequences will be. This is remarkable. Another important thing for me is that he reminded me some of the best times in Indian cricket. Kapil Dev's thrilling 175 against Zimbabwe, the wins against Australia and England and of course, the victory at Lords in the final. Also, for all his mistakes off the field, Azharuddin remains one of India's most stylish batsman ever. His cover drives were stuff of legend. I enjoyed reading those snippets about him. On the human side, some of his conversations gives you a glimpse of the celebrity which you have only guessed about earlier. I felt this especially with Tiger Pataudi, Vijay Mallya and Vinod Kambli. Another personality he showed so clearly is Arvind Pujara. The only quibble I have with this book is that, Astill has lived in India for four years it is sad that the only people he genuinely empathized were all in Dharavi.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vinod Peris

    I was traveling to India and wanted to catch up on 25 years of cricket while sitting on a plane. This seemed like the perfect book for this. It started out with some of the early cricketing pioneers of India and it was interesting to see how it gained popularity despite the fact that the British did nothing to encourage it when they ruled India. The book quickly progresses to more modern times and the author has done his homework well in terms of distilling the essence of the key players of the I was traveling to India and wanted to catch up on 25 years of cricket while sitting on a plane. This seemed like the perfect book for this. It started out with some of the early cricketing pioneers of India and it was interesting to see how it gained popularity despite the fact that the British did nothing to encourage it when they ruled India. The book quickly progresses to more modern times and the author has done his homework well in terms of distilling the essence of the key players of the Indian Cricket Team through the second half of the twentieth century. His descriptions of Gavaskar, Vishwanath, Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna and Venkat were precise and brought on a wave of nostalgia as I read through those sections. Finally, the part that I really needed an education was the events leading up to the IPL. The author is clearly not impressed with the quality of the cricket there and expresses his doubts on whether it is beneficial to the cricket game as a whole. Overall, I would not recommend this book unless you are looking to get educated on the Indian Cricket scene.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Raghavendra

    A sports book is usually a good read. A cricket book is always a good read. James Astill doesn't completely disappoint. The chapters on Indian cricket history, the excellent reference section and the sublime encounters in this book make it a good read. The disappointment is in the overly generalized comparison of the current Indian economy with cricket. The rise and fall of the fortunes of the players of the game is tied to the rise and fall of the Indian republic via anecdotes and cherry picked A sports book is usually a good read. A cricket book is always a good read. James Astill doesn't completely disappoint. The chapters on Indian cricket history, the excellent reference section and the sublime encounters in this book make it a good read. The disappointment is in the overly generalized comparison of the current Indian economy with cricket. The rise and fall of the fortunes of the players of the game is tied to the rise and fall of the Indian republic via anecdotes and cherry picked stories. It skirts around a lot of Indian post-independence history and makes cricket a way bigger protagonist than the game really has been.Add a dash of condescension of things Indian in general and IPL and its audience in particular. Makes for awkward reading sometimes. That said, it is a fine read and quite well written. The reference section is really above par and has led me to a lot of other books. Read this for enjoyment and don't take it seriously.After all, it is only a game.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Umair Mir

    The Great Tamasha ponders over the transition , of the game from elite Britishers ( symbolism ) to the biggest slum of Asia..A mind boggling transition by any standards..It also examines the contribution of Parsis and few Unsung heroes , thrown into the understanding of India..To quote Astill " As i hope to have shown, i know of no better way to make sense of India, in its vastness and complexity , than through its passion for cricket " In its later part,the author critically analyses and examin The Great Tamasha ponders over the transition , of the game from elite Britishers ( symbolism ) to the biggest slum of Asia..A mind boggling transition by any standards..It also examines the contribution of Parsis and few Unsung heroes , thrown into the understanding of India..To quote Astill " As i hope to have shown, i know of no better way to make sense of India, in its vastness and complexity , than through its passion for cricket " In its later part,the author critically analyses and examines the future of cricket in India aligned with its freakonomics, and posing a great threat to the traditional as well as the international form of cricket...One could say a choice between the National pride and Consumerism...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mayuresh Dubhashi

    Someone needed to shed light on the murkier side of the BCCI and the way it manages cricket in the country. And thankfully this book does exactly that. It's like the Maximum City for cricket, right from talking to honest, aspiring cricketers to self-declared demi-gods like Niranjan Shah, it talks about them all. The author really loves his cricket & cricketing history and so one ends up noticing that tinge of sadness about how the sport in being manhandled by those feudal lords who have no clue a Someone needed to shed light on the murkier side of the BCCI and the way it manages cricket in the country. And thankfully this book does exactly that. It's like the Maximum City for cricket, right from talking to honest, aspiring cricketers to self-declared demi-gods like Niranjan Shah, it talks about them all. The author really loves his cricket & cricketing history and so one ends up noticing that tinge of sadness about how the sport in being manhandled by those feudal lords who have no clue about it. Read it for the rise of cricket in India and the very delicate perch at the top on which it sits today.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Umesh Kesavan

    Combines the historical analysis of Ramachandra Guha with the travelogue-style of Rahul Bhattacharya. The chapters on Niranjan Shah and Lalit Modi were revealing. Like any cricket book based in India,there is a generous dose of Bollywood,economics,Hindu nationalism,politics and caste thrown it. A particular sideshow I enjoyed was the chapter on Nargis Fakhri on the sets of Rockstar. The only minus to point out is that the book says nothing new or suggests no solutions to revamp Indian cricket. O Combines the historical analysis of Ramachandra Guha with the travelogue-style of Rahul Bhattacharya. The chapters on Niranjan Shah and Lalit Modi were revealing. Like any cricket book based in India,there is a generous dose of Bollywood,economics,Hindu nationalism,politics and caste thrown it. A particular sideshow I enjoyed was the chapter on Nargis Fakhri on the sets of Rockstar. The only minus to point out is that the book says nothing new or suggests no solutions to revamp Indian cricket. Otherwise,an enriching read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kshitiz

    This book couples the history of Indian cricket with political and economic development in India. It tells how India became the undisputed leader of Cricket Economics. What is ailing Indian Cricket and follies of its administrators and system. There are some hidden nuggets of information (for e.g. development of Pujara as a cricketer) which ordinary observer/follower of cricket would not have privy to. But at the same time, I am a bit surprised by the degree of sarcasm used in the book. Highly re This book couples the history of Indian cricket with political and economic development in India. It tells how India became the undisputed leader of Cricket Economics. What is ailing Indian Cricket and follies of its administrators and system. There are some hidden nuggets of information (for e.g. development of Pujara as a cricketer) which ordinary observer/follower of cricket would not have privy to. But at the same time, I am a bit surprised by the degree of sarcasm used in the book. Highly readable book and puts Indian Cricket into right perspective.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Parth

    The book is a nice attempt to view the Indian cricket from unbiased eyes of a foreign correspondent. I came to know many things about the history of the game in India as well as how current state of the game actually is. The author has been bold enough to criticise what he has felt wrong and also good enough to highlight what he found outstanding in Indian cricket. I just completed the book over a weekend and now will see the world cup starting from next week with a slightly different perspectiv The book is a nice attempt to view the Indian cricket from unbiased eyes of a foreign correspondent. I came to know many things about the history of the game in India as well as how current state of the game actually is. The author has been bold enough to criticise what he has felt wrong and also good enough to highlight what he found outstanding in Indian cricket. I just completed the book over a weekend and now will see the world cup starting from next week with a slightly different perspective.. All in all, a must read at least once for every cricket enthusiast of India..

  17. 5 out of 5

    Raghu oddiraju

    As the description of the book says, it is about cricket, corruption and how things get done in India.Unfortunately, it may not be suitable to people who are not familiar with the sport even though it is not exactly about the game itself but more about how it is run. For those who are familiar with the sport, it gives a great insight about how among a lot of talented people, only some get a chance to play.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nilendu Misra

    Economist writers have a way to keep readers with them for 400 pages! I originally borrowed this book from local library to possibly thumb-through in an hour. After the page where he interviews Kapil Dev I got hooked and raced to the end. Imran Khan condoning suicide bombing to Sir Viv Richards, drunk cable-wallahs of Delhi, forgotten geography of ICL -- the book also sub-plots significant political happenings in 80s and 90s. A good read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Arvind

    The book is brilliant, well written and a well researched one at that considering the fact that the author works for the Economist. He describes the history of Indian Cricket from its origins to the current day T20 series, the scandals and corruptions that have time and again brought ill repute to the game. took up this book after reading a review on the NYT. A book one should read to understand what Indian Cricket is all about

  20. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    Great examination of the history of cricket in India, with a focus on the rise to world cricket administration dominance of (& increased corruption in) the Indian Cricket Board and the development (and corruption) of the Twenty20 Indian Premier League. it's an excellent book - the only quibble is that the author seems to hate Twenty20 cricket (and greatly prefers the Test match), slings some baseless insults at the shorter game, and never really describes why the test version is better. Great examination of the history of cricket in India, with a focus on the rise to world cricket administration dominance of (& increased corruption in) the Indian Cricket Board and the development (and corruption) of the Twenty20 Indian Premier League. it's an excellent book - the only quibble is that the author seems to hate Twenty20 cricket (and greatly prefers the Test match), slings some baseless insults at the shorter game, and never really describes why the test version is better.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Danny

    This is what you'd expect from an editor from the Economist writing about cricket in India: potted history, interviews with cricket administrators and cricket obsessives across the social spectrum, skepticism towards economic regulation. It entertains and informs, though the journalistic tone is a bit too breezy for my tastes. Worth reading if you're interested in the consequences of India's economic development and its impact on global cricket. This is what you'd expect from an editor from the Economist writing about cricket in India: potted history, interviews with cricket administrators and cricket obsessives across the social spectrum, skepticism towards economic regulation. It entertains and informs, though the journalistic tone is a bit too breezy for my tastes. Worth reading if you're interested in the consequences of India's economic development and its impact on global cricket.

  22. 4 out of 5

    A

    The cricket in India. The impact of the game, the social-economic effects and the subsequent corruption/growth. This is what the book tries to go through. With a lot of scope, the could have gone even deeper. Overall a good book especially for the observation and the last chapter where he for sees the BCCI bullying. Not bad. Worth a read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anurag Sethi

    A wonderful book that the phenomenon of cricket in India - its history, its politics, and its present. Very critical of Indian politics in sports and says the current standing of Indian cricket is only because of the people running the sport. Also highly critical of the IPL - it is a wonderful read for every Indian sport fan.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Akin

    Two and a half stars, really. Solid but unspectacular research, goes long on the anecdote and personal aside, but rather short on analysis. Not terribly well organised. IPL probably warrants a book in itself. Dreadful editing. It could have been...should have been a much better book, but feels like it was put together in a hurry.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sunil

    Though entertaining, the book does not convincingly answer the question the author himself asks- what is the true 'political' value of the game for people in public office. For instance, while describing his meeting with Sharad Pawar he repeated asks 'but why did he decide to invest so much in a cricket high office'. and then the question remains unanswered till the end. Though entertaining, the book does not convincingly answer the question the author himself asks- what is the true 'political' value of the game for people in public office. For instance, while describing his meeting with Sharad Pawar he repeated asks 'but why did he decide to invest so much in a cricket high office'. and then the question remains unanswered till the end.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Carter

    Superbly written, this is a great journey through both India and Indian cricket history. Even if you're not a huge cricket fan it's an eye opener in terms of history and how life in India has evolved. If you are a cricket fan, then it's magic - Astill's love for the game shines through in his writing and sucks you right in, so that you're almost at the crease with him. Superbly written, this is a great journey through both India and Indian cricket history. Even if you're not a huge cricket fan it's an eye opener in terms of history and how life in India has evolved. If you are a cricket fan, then it's magic - Astill's love for the game shines through in his writing and sucks you right in, so that you're almost at the crease with him.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Stevenson

    There is a lot going on behind the men in white. Cricket, at least in India, is big business. It also reflects the changing social scene - decline of caste, impact of urbanization. An interesting perspective.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nabila

    Describes not just the history of cricket in India but also the rise of India as an economic powerhouse. The author's love of the game shines throughout the book making it a must read for any cricket fans. Describes not just the history of cricket in India but also the rise of India as an economic powerhouse. The author's love of the game shines throughout the book making it a must read for any cricket fans.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hoyadaisy

    Book was well written, with a huge exception. No effort was made to make the game of cricket understandable to an outsider. Should have been edited for an American audience.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Vikas Datta

    Incisive account and analysis of the straits to which a noble game has been dragged down...

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