I finally got to read this highly acclaimed piece of work by the West Indian scholar and cricketer, C.L.R. James. His most famous quote 'What do they know of cricket who only cricket knows?' sums up his attitude to the game and his thoughts on how it should be played. It is a fascinating book and to call it a cricket book is really doing it great injustice - not just that, it shows the ignorance of the reader / reviewer.
Beyond a Boundary is many things. It is part autobiography, a socio-cultural commentary on the West Indian society, a historical account of cricket in the West Indies, an account of colonialism and racism in the West Indies, a profile of some of the best known names in the game, a commentary and essay on whether the game is an art, the spirit of the game and how it must be preserved, literature, art, politics and so much more that is beyond my scope in one reading. It is a wonderfully captivating book for the lucidity of thought of the author and his way of presenting it.
C.L.R.James writes with great authority on the game and as with anyone, some issues could be debatable. For instance when he avers that the wicket keeping position is not one for the captain. Or even some descriptions and terms which do not register to the modern day cricketer. But his profiles of players like Arthur Jones, Learie Constantine, George Jones, George Headley, Frank Worrell, W.G. Grace. Don Bradman and so many others as he writes about matches or politics or compares styles is fascinating.
It is only such deep love for the game, for what goes into the game, the serious study of its techniques and shades, the theory and practice, the understanding of the dynamics behind the game, the love for his community, society, mankind, justice, fairplay - that can bring forth a book like this. It certainly cannot be reviewed by me because it is of a knowledge and scale beyond me. One can only feel the intensity of the passion, see the power of the writing, acknowledge the vast amount of knowledge that speaks behind each word and breathe deeply and say - how I wish I could write like that someday!