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Book Review: Selection Day by Aravind Adiga

There’s beauty in cricket, which we Indians understand deeply. Even though our national game is hockey, we live and breathe cricket. And Aravind Adiga’s new novel Selection Day is centered around this passionate sport only. A mix of beating class hierarchy, rags to riches dreams, jealousies and parental pressure, Selection Day makes up for a brilliant read.

The story of Selection day is about Mohan Kumar, a father who believes that his sons, Radha and Manju will one day become either Bradman or Tendulkar. He believes that both his sons, especially Radha, who Mohan has observed to possess a skill with the bat, can transform their life forever. Mohan uproots his family from Karnataka and moves to the city where cricketers are made, Mumbai. He starts studying about cricket and developing alternate theories of every aspect of cricket-mental, technical and physical. After learning and devising new theories, he would apply the theories on the lives of Manju and Radha.

In Mumbai, Mohan’s wife leaves him, which hardens his stance more on making his sons into successful cricketers. He feels that Radha is the chosen one, tall and having a secret contract with “God Subramanya”, guaranteeing his success in the field. But Manju is somewhat different. He does have the skills that every upcoming cricketer requires, but is time to time distracted by science and its mysteries, a subject he loves. And if given a chance, would love to get into forensic science, rather than cricket. But somehow Manju is unaware, that he is better than his brother in this game. It’s like everybody knows who Manju should be, but does Manju know himself?

Their hard work and technique draws the attention of N.S. Kulkarni, aka “Tommy sir”, a well-known journalist and cricket scout in Mumbai.  He senses Mohan Kumar’s poverty and control freak nature and devises a plan that can help both him and Kumar out of their misery. He gets in touch with Anand Mehta, a US return son of a rich stockbroker, and Mehta purchases the right to one-third of boys earning for the life in return for Rs 5,000 a month. A venture capital that will lead to a web of jealousies, competitions, and broken spirits, creating a novel so deep and pure that it will leave you mesmerized until the end.

Selection Day is a story that has many aspects to it, special one being that Adiga appears to be the only writer who has created a story around the post-1983 phenomenon of cricket. Another notable thing is that a sport of passion is shown as a sport of necessity in Selection Day, where Manju is playing to keep up with his father’s dreams.

If we speak of characters of Selection Day, each character has come out of our daily lives only. Mohan Kumar, a combination of a father who wants his kids to march towards success and a control freak who doesn’t want them to falter. Fondly known as “Chutney King”, he subjects them to daily humiliating body checks that he does himself, making both Manju and Radha uncomfortable. A control freak father who spends his time observing his sons practice on the field and even correct them when required, and fight for them when necessary.

Radha and Manju are both obedient sons, but time to time indulge in going against their father’s wishes. Radha is the one who is to be made into Tendulkar, and Mohan’s all hopes lie on him. But Manju is the one who overpowers Radha’s talent one day, leaving jealousy and bad competition thriving in the family. A day comes when Manju shares his wishes with the world, a passion for forensic sciencea thrist for college degree, and his new found homo friendship with another competitor in the field Javed, but can all these wishes come true? That’s left with the reader to decide.

When you read Selection day, you will instantly fall in love with it. The plot defining how heroes are made in India and how they are dropped at a single mistake is something that we come across in our daily lives. We have seen too many stars being made and broken down from time to time, but Adiga’s writing skill and research for the plot makes it much more alluring when you read Selection Day. However, if you are reading Adiga for the first time, you might feel a little lost in narration and writing style.

All in all, Selection Day is a book that is commendable and beautiful in its own way. Adiga has outdone himself by writing a book so detailed and passionate, a book that you should not miss.

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