Ishan Kamdar’s cricket fiction places a female cricketer in men’s team, imagines an interplay of social media and physical playground
Written using 'book cricket' the action unfolds in real time, with the twist and turns of a real-life game. Experienced from the perspective of a millennial fan with access to the internet, a short attention span, and a thrill for live sport.
This is the first cricket book that introduces a female character into the ‘mens’ team and pulls in Twitter characters and conversations in a never before seen manner. Ishan Kamdar's 'It's Only Live Once' is set on a day where England faces India in this One Day International at the Home of Cricket, Lords UK, as the fans and spectators watch from the stands, whilst following all the cricket action across social media!
I never excelled at English at school. Maths was my thing, not English, which is probably true for a lot of first generation Indians in the UK. Maths came more easily to our multi-lingual parents, and so was prioritised at an earlier age, and we got better at it. In fact until the age of 3 I had no English. My household, although based in London, was completely Gujarati. My first teacher hauled my parents in on my first day and got them to reset our home language as she had no way of communicating with me. From then on home was all English, but I never got any better at it. Obviously as a millennial, I blame my parents. I was laughed at by my teachers for long sentences, incoherent language and limited vocabulary, from grade school, all the way throughout university. I barely re-read my dissertation before submitting, to my own detriment. Therefore it was never in my plan to write a book. This came to me in the middle of the night, whilst starved of live action sport in the middle of the coronavirus lockdown, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Could it be possible to capture the suspense, thrill and imagination of sport, in the 21 st century, while not experiencing it or watching it live?
I like nearly all sports. Watching that is. I play barely any. When it comes to watching sport I consider myself a jack-of-all trades fan. As long as it’s live and I know the rules I will watch it. Football, Rugby, F1, Golf, Cricket, .. Darts .. whatever. They have even started to show the Indian Kabbadi league on UK tv now and I go a bit crazy when the Olympics comes around. I wouldn’t say I was an expert in any of them, and so I couldn’t tell you who the coach was when England won the Rugby world cup in 2003, I just remember they won, and Jonny Wilkinson won it in the last few minutes, and then danced around. I play golf, so I have a better knowledge of that, used to play cricket and was forced to play rugby for a term at school. Other than that, I am not particularly sporty myself. I like to tell myself that I prefer to watch the experts do it, and when they do it well there is no greater entertainment.
The sports I like are all completely made up, usually by the English or Scottish, and would be completely alien to foreign invaders. Boxing is easy to understand, but I’m not a big fan. I need complicated, convoluted rules which can only be passed down through the generations by watching or playing the sport. Knowing the complicated rules gives me the feeling of being in the know; that just by understanding all the rules and objectives of the game, you are in a special group of like-minded people, elevated above everyone else. These nuances and strategies bring so much entertainment, mystery, suspense and ultimately joy.
Cricket is exactly one of these sports. It’s so complicated and laced with intrigue, strategy and strength that the majority of the world doesn’t have a clue. Cricket will never be in the Olympics. It was created in the 1800s by some Englishmen and exported all over the world by the British Empire - and that is where it stuck. Today at a professional level cricket is only played by around 25 countries, and the “World Cup” is contested by 12 of them. There are 195 countries in total, I would remind you. That being said it is one of the biggest sports in the world, because of India. In the last 50 years cricket has come to dominate the sporting lives of over 1.2bn people in India. It is their escapism, their entertainment, in otherwise very difficult lives. Add that to the other countries that play cricket, and maybe with rounding you will get to 1.3bn people. The game is what has come to connect India and England, and has connected with the Indian diaspora around the world.
I was brought up on cricket. I played it at school, attended matches when I could especially at Lord’s and have watched it ever since. As an overweight teenager, a twenty-something and now thirty-something, I didn’t play it very well. I had good hand-eye coordination and a steady demeanour while batting and could rip it a bit when bowling. But I really couldn’t run, and a top “career” score of 74* wasn’t going to earn me many medals. I was solid 3rd XI material, meaning I was about good enough to make up the numbers in the third string.
But cricket is all about numbers and it is the maths I loved. I was able to fully score my father’s Sunday league team by the time I was 9 with all the summary stats to go with it. He was better than me and had a regular place in his “lads” team batting at 3 or 4. Our weekends were pitched around his matches and it became our summer tradition to get all my homework done on Saturday, and spend Sunday at the cricket. Mum and the other “aunties” would make the teas and as long as the rain stayed away, which is rare in North London, everyone was out for a good time. So cricket became part of life, and my childhood.
So this is a tale about cricket. It captured my imagination when I was a child and continues to do so today. For an English cricket fan, the summer of 2019 was probably the cricketing highlight of our lives. For example; the extra time “Super Over” in the World Cup final and a last-wicket victory in an Ashes test which should have been lost are heart-stopping moments that only cricket and sport in general can give when you care so much about something that really has nothing to do with you.
I didn’t see either of those events live, but followed them through all the media available to me at that time. I watched the final on TV, on twitter and the BBC sport live feed. I had a ticket to the game, but couldn’t make it. Can you believe it! I “watched” the famous Ashes last wicket stand on BBC live feed with a very poor refresh rate while driving around Italy. Both were heart-in-mouth moments and with hindsight, it was the best cricketing summer ever. It was not only created by the action in front of us, although that is 80% of it, but the way it is viewed and the varieties of engagement that surround it. The commentaries, the stats, the updates, the interviews, the emotion, both on and off the field. Watching twitter while watching anything live is the only way to do it. For all its crudity the internet is a fantastic place, and as long as you only read the “liked” posts, the whole experience is enhanced. Twitter helps you confirm the rest of the world is thinking exactly what you are: Trent Boult stepping over the boundary rope when the game is on the line was a school boy error and cost them the match .. “how could he?”.
It is this way of watching and this excitement that I want to capture, because in 2020, global circumstances have turned the sporting world off. We are all stuck at home, pleading for some watchable moment to restart. Reading twitter while watching Netflix isn’t the same thing, and there is only so much COVID-19 misery and death that you can read about.
Buy this book Amazon