Author(s): James Astill
On a Bangalore night in April 2008, cricket and India changed forever. It was the first night of the Indian Premier League - cricket, but not as we knew it. It involved big money, glitz, prancing girls and Bollywood stars. It was not so much sport as tamasha: a great entertainment. The Great Tamasha examines how a game and a country, both regarded as synonymous with infinite patience, managed to produce such an event. James Astill explains how India's economic surge and cricketing obsession made it the dominant power in world cricket, off the field if rarely on it. He tells how cricket has become the central focus of the world's second-biggest nation: the place where power and money and celebrity and corruption all meet, to the rapt attention of a billion eyeballs. Astill crosses the subcontinent and, over endless cups of tea, meets the people who make up modern India - from faded princes to back-street bookmakers, slum kids to squillionaires - and sees how cricket shapes their lives and that of their country. Finally, in London he meets Indian cricket's fallen star, Lalit Modi, whose driving energy helped build this new form of cricket before he was dismissed in disgrace: a story that says much about modern India. The Great Tamasha is a fascinating examination of the most important development in cricket today. A brilliant evocation of an endlessly beguiling country, it is also essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the workings of modern India.
The Great Tamasha is the story of modern India told through the glitzy, scandalous and mind-blowingly lucrative Twenty20 cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League.
Astill has written a fascinating book about cricket, which sent me scurrying to Wisden to check Tiger Pataudi's Test batting average ... But he has also written a serious book about India whose problems are illuminated through an extended treatment of the national sporting obsession Philip Collins, The Times Ambitious and excellent ... Astill is a lean and elegant writer ... He is acute in observing how differently Indian and Pakistan fans relate to their cricketers ... above all, The Great Tamasha is a cricket-lover's book Gideon Haigh, The Cricketer A clear-sighted and superbly researched study of cricket in India ... Politics in democratic India, Astill observes, is "feudal, corrupt and vindictive", and the administration of cricket is no more than an aspect of politics ... Astill seems to have talked to everyone who is anyone involved in this deeply unattractive business Sunday Telegraph An enchanting as well as enchanted passage through an India that has turned what was once an English summer game into a multi-million dollar national entertainment ... Astill is a storyteller, and what sets The Great Tamasha apart from the usual cricket literature is the seamless blending of politics, sociology, economy and sports history in a narrative enriched by drama and delightful set pieces S. Prasannarajan, India Today Engaging, perceptive and rigorous ... The Great Tamasha tells a fascinating story well. Anyone interested in India, or cricket, and most certainly both, will enjoy it very much Jason Burke, Observer What makes Astill's book exceptional is his first-hand reporting ... We meet powerful Indian politicians from Sharad Power, who aspired to be prime minister and headed international cricket, to residents of Dharavi in Mumbai, one of the biggest slums in Asia Mihir Bose, Independent The combination of reporter's notebook, sporting history and a descriptive style makes The Great Tamasha compelling reading Financial Times [Astill] is a daring story-teller: the book changes course with the regularity of the Brahmaputra, turning between politics, culture, crime, economics, celebrity and sport ... Through his interviews and reportage, you get an impression of Indian society, its people and their concerns. Spectator blog An entertaining and important new book The Telegraph, Calcutta Astill tells expertly the story of the enthusiastic adoption of cricket in India Stephen Fay, TLS An important and incisive new book NPR The Great Tamasha is the perfect example of a book which can intrigue and delight as much as the latest thriller: the story of modern India told through one of its most lucrative displays of wealth, cricket's Indian Premier League The National, Best Summer Reads One of the best books on cricket that I have read. Perhaps it should not be called a book on cricket, because it is not. But cricket is a prism through which Astill attempts to comment on the transformation that has occurred, and is occurring, in India ... Astill is a brilliant writer Surjit Bhalla, Indian Express [Astill] writes with solicitude - relatively rare in recent books about "rising" India - for the also-rans, the perennially disadvantaged and the utterly hopeless ... One gifted cricketer he meets in a Mumbai slum is wary of the hard leather ball that "might injure his hands, which he used to make tiny stitches on silk saris" ... Astill brings a divertingly caustic energy to his encounters with the successful Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg A beautiful book Daniel Hodges, Daily Telegraph Astill's device, using the game as a prism, is novel and enlightening Asian Age This is an excellent book on India even if you, like I, have no real understanding of cricket Tyler Cowen, Symposium Magazine Meticulous yet poetic Wall Street Journal Blog Astill sets out to examine the complexities of modern India through the game of cricket ... His energetic reporting and a fluent grasp of history make for a compelling rendering of a cricket-mad country New Yorker
James Astill is the political editor of The Economist. He was formerly the newspaper's South Asia Bureau Chief, stationed in New Delhi 2007-2010. He has also worked as the newspaper's defence editor, energy and environment editor and Afghanistan correspondent. He has won several journalism awards including America's Gerald R. Ford Prize for Reporting on National Defence, the Grantham Prize for Excellence in Environmental Reporting and a Ramnath Goenka Award for writing on India.