The extended time spent at home as the world grapples with the coronavirus crisis calls for some hobby reading with Quarantine reads becoming increasingly popular.

For sports fans, the dearth of live action is a chance to explore a lesser-pursued side of the game – reading non-fiction books. In this series, we look at the books about sports and athletes that can be read during this time of physical distancing. This list serves the dual purpose of keeping us connected to the sports we love and spend time by indulging in a hobby we may not always have the time for.

You can also check out our list of sports films and documentaries to watch.

It takes all sorts – by Peter Roebuck

The tagline for this book by the late Roebuck, a first-class cricketer who earned repute as one of the foremost voices in cricket journalism, is ‘celebrating cricket’s colorful characters’. The phrase is a succinct description of the book which is a collection of Roebuck’s articles about men’s cricket for over a decade.

What it is about?

Published in 2005, the book offers character portraits of not just cricketers, but iconic moments in their careers, the turning points of a match and, in hindsight, a prediction of many careers. In his own words, Roebuck’s interest in sport lay in its revelation of character and this book is rich n that aspect.

Divided in sections such as Arrivals, Retirements, Departures, Soaring Subcontinental, To be an Englishman, Australians at Work, each chapter has a snippet of stories around a similar theme with an explanation at the start. There are sections dedicated to the continents that have Test-playing teams, fast bowlers and players who made a name for their reputation as well. An interview with Sir Garry Sobers’ mother and an obituary of Don Bradman bookends the character studies, which cover both the highs and lows of the game as well as players that not many would talk about (in a section called Salt of the Earth.)

Overall, it gives a rounded image of cricket and its players just before the explosion of social media made them more accessible as personalities to people from all over the world.

What makes it special?

Since the chapters dedicated to cricketers and their knocks are often news-based, a bit of context is needed to understand the significance of certain knocks. But for hard-core cricket fans, Roebuck’s picturesque words are enough to recall the moment, be it Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid heroics Down Under in late 2003 or Brain Lara’s century leading the ‘greatest chase’ against Australia in 1999.

A very interesting aspect of the book is the pieces where he had written about a now popular cricketer before they gained international fame, like describing a 17-year-old Ricky Ponting, who was called ‘Sachin’ by his colleagues because of his prodigious talent as a teen or writing an impression of Kevin Pietersen before he qualified to play for England after coming from South Africa (in the section dedicated to Africa, no less). A bit where he talks about Shoaib Akhtar being a player who needs to be understood for what he brings in as an unusual fast bowler or the one where he praises a 22-year-old Graeme Smith’s ruthlessness as captain seem prophetic.

For India fans, there are particularly nostalgic sections such as Sachin Tendulkar’s memorable knock against Pakistan at the 2003 World Cup, Virender Sehwag’s manic Melbourne hundred or Kapil Dev becoming the then highest wicket-taker, as an Indian pacer.

Why you should read it?

A good part about starting a book that is a collection of unconnected stories, you can read through whichever section or player you prefer to start with. The format also means that one does not have to invest a lot of time, which is often associated with reading especially non-fiction books. This can be a quick read which can be picked up at any time and you’ll still keep the thread going.

If you’re missing cricket, want to know more about some iconic or obscure players or even just want a throwback to the times when newspaper articles, the next day, described how vital a certain player/performance was, this is a book for you.