"Thinking cricket" — A well-thought out book of instructions

By Mahinda Wijesinghe
9 years ago, almost to the day, a tropical rainstorm was lashing its unbridled fury on the streets of Colombo. It was the evening of the 12th of November 1992. The moment a tragedy was to unfold and tragically snuff the life of an unfortunate chauffeur and change the life of 42-year-old Chartered Chemist and Test match panel cricket umpire, Ajith Perera. A tree, standing sentinel by the side of the road for decades, unable to withstand the battering of the unrelenting wind and the torrential rain, finally succumbed and crashed on to the car in which Perera was returning after work. The driver was killed instantaneously and Perera reduced to a paraplegic.

That is history. Today, the resourceful and the determined Perera, whilst being in a wheelchair has, inter alia, authoured two books on cricket, second of which is titled Thinking Cricket (Publisher: The author. September 2001) is however his magnum opus. On the cover page, in addition to the blurb, ‘’The Players’ guide to better cricket" there is an eye-catching colour photograph of Perera ‘’standing" in a game being played on the green fields of England. Comprising over 250 A4 size pages in 120 gsm art paper, the book contains over 100 well-chosen and instructive photographs mostly in colour. Priced at a give-away figure of Rs. 695 (UK Price of Stg.12.95) the book weighs around a kilogramme! Former England skipper Mike Brearley has contributed the Preface while Sri Lanka’s cricket coach, Dav Whatmore, the Foreword.

This is no ordinary book on cricket. With his academic background as a Chartered Chemist along with his undoubted managerial skills he had gleaned in his professional career, Perera has been successful in communicating a well-nigh comprehensive guide to the intricacies in cricket and the attendant problems faced by players and coaches. In other words, Thinking Cricket is a handbook that should be within easy reach of both and a must for the Sports section of any library.

The various chapters are laid out not only colourfully but also in an easy to follow format. Quotations and words of wisdom ranging from The Dhammapada and the Old Testament to the worldly Dale Carnegie (Remember ‘’How to Win Friends and Influence People"?) are sprinkled judiciously across the book to inspire the reader. Common faults and how to eradicate them are tabulated in such a manner that ‘’Thinking Cricket" seems a do-it-yourself book where the young cricketer could almost justifiably think he could dispense with the services of a professional coach, or alternatively, the coach may feel his duties can be discharged with the least bother.

Of course in a monumental work of this nature a few glitches can always surface. For instance, the captions accompanying two full-length colour photographs of Barry Richards and Basil D’Oliveira are incorrect. Both players are not "perfectly poised for that cover drive," while the author has not identified instructive photographs of former Australian all-rounder Keith Miller and that of England’s National Cricket Association coach, Les Lenham. The one serious charge however is the absence of an index. That could actually have been the icing on the cake, and certainly added to the market value of the book especially in the foreign market. Perhaps the author may have opined that having given so much detail at the beginning of each chapter, why bother about an index?

Given the price of a quality cricket book today, not to mention the value of its contents, "Thinking Cricket" is a bonanza not only to players and coaches but also to masters-in-charge of cricket in schools. I would even go further and add to this list the housewives and man-on-the-street who could fine-tune his/her knowledge so that he/she will not be bowled over when reverse-sweeps and wrong’uns are being discussed by the Jones’!

After all is said and done, and while commending the author for having taken the unprecedented step of paying a separate tribute to the late Sir Donald Bradman in a book-dealing with technique, it is a statement by The Don himself and quoted in the book that sticks in the memory: "If technique is going to prove the master of the player and not his servant, then it will not be doing its job."