‘The Men Within – A Cricketing Tale’ by Harimohan Paruvu comes as a total surprise – the first ever cricket-based Indian English novel coming from the Cricket Crazy Nation of India. The 272-page book comes out as a winner and so does the author, Harimohan Paruvu, a former first class cricketer. As some one who has been closely following, writing and commentating about the game, I have been totally impressed by the way Harimohan has convincingly depicted the game and how it is played by his young heroes.
This novel is about a school called ‘Golconda Public School’ (GPS); and its Cricket Team, a bunch of zeroes transforming themselves into heroes to bring back the glorious past of their illustrious school. The author goes on to write about how these characters go on about their job, it is about their ride and it is about the day-to-day hurdles that they face along their path. So essentially, the story becomes a realistic one that anyone can relate to their personal lives at some point of time.
At the start, Harimohan brings out a scenario which shows growing disinterest in the sport among the Board Members that run the school and at the same time, there are a few villains emerging out whose motive is to convert the dusty school grounds into money-fetching coaching centres purely for academics. There is a good old man though and that is the Principal who is keen to bring back the trophies back to the School, something that has eluded them for several years despite having a glorious history of being the Champs for 15 years on the trot! The task is a tough one for the Princi as the Cricket Team, if there was any surviving, had hit rock bottom, from being an Australian kind of Champion Team to a Zimbabwean outfit.
The Man for the Mission for Vishwanath Sharma, the Princi, is one Sampath, a man spending most of his time in bars after getting fed up with life. The story revolves around Sampath, from changing himself as a drunkard with a bad reputation to being a meaningful person getting his boys to rally around him to work towards a DREAM that of winning the Championship. Sampath doesn’t have a magic potion, he is more of the Naseeruddin Shah of the movie ‘Iqbal’ rather than the Naseeruddin Shah of another movie called ‘Chamatkar’. Sampath first finds a lot of resistance from the young boys with half of them feeling they are superstars and half of them not believing in their cricketing talent. They find fault with whatever their Coach does but eventually, the man wins the hearts of his folks. Once they believe in the ‘processes of their Coach’, there is no looking back at all!
There are 14 players that make the Golconda Cricket Squad and each one is different from the other, each one has his problems and each one has his strength or weakness which was well-scripted by the author. Bringing out the best out of these young kiddos is the challenge that Sampath takes up and as he goes along, finds lot of help right from an old watchman to a top business magnate. It is not just about playing cricket day-in and day-out – there are lot of factors involved for making a champion outfit and Harimohan, the author, brings out all those, wasting no character. Each of the numerous characters has a role in the success of GPS, even if it is that of the Bus Driver! No stone is left unturned.
There is a pessimistic and greedy man called ‘Madhu’, the Math teacher always looking to disrupt the morale of the cricket team which adds up the spice to the novel. Harimohan interestingly brings out a love angle as well which adds up some funny moments. He has a character that resembles Nandita Das in the movie ‘Rockford’. There is lot of reality in the way Harimohan talks about the infatuation young boys have over girls, women, the time they spend on watching movies and of course FTV!! Where Harimohan was best was when the matches get kicking, there is lot of excitement, and at the same time anxiety filled in to have the readers at the edge of their seat.
All in all, ‘The Men Within’ is definitely worth a read- not just for cricketers, but for anyone who loves a good guts-and-glory story that leaves you on a high. I hope there are more Coaches like Sampath in real life, the ones who involve their heart and souls in their jobs and not the ones who come, give a net session and push off without a purpose. For without a proper Coach, there wouldn’t have been a Sachin Tendulkar, a Shane Warne or for that matter any successful cricketer! Honestly speaking, this novel should have a good lifetime so that it inspires many more readers in realizing that the HERO is within them. To Harimohan, is there a sequel coming to this or perhaps a TV serial based on this?
Update: Based on this novel, a Telugu Movie in 2011 was made by the name – Golconda High School starring Sumanth, Colours Swathi and others