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Selection Day
By Aravind Adiga

Reviewed by Mahadev Desai

Chennai born author Aravind Adiga, whose debut novel, The White Tiger was awarded the prestigious 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, has written his third novel, Selection Day, which also has garnered profuse praise from the literary critics and readers alike.

"Adiga seems boundlessly gifted once again. He makes beautiful sentences; creates wonderfully eccentric, original characters; and moves his plot along at a brisk pace. There’s energy and wit on every page …Adiga superbly captures the intimacy between the two brothers, as they bicker, tease and protect each other…as Adiga explores themes of ambition, failure, homophobia and threats to freedom-whether on a personal or national level-he has produced a nearly flawless novel, and further proof that he is among our finest contemporary novelists", comments Carmela Ciuraru, San Francisco Chronicle. And lauds Mark Greif, The Atlantic, “The best novel I read this year…In its primal triangle of rival brothers and a maniacal father, hell-bent on success in cricket in India, Adiga grips the passions while painting an extraordinary panorama of contemporary sports, greed, celebrity and mundanity. As a literary master, Adiga has only advanced in his art since his Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger".

Mohan Kumar a poor villager, a chutney-salesman, and a tyrannical father of two sons Radha Kumar and Manjunath Kumar is convinced that they can become world's best number one and two batsmen. He leaves his village with his family for Mumbai and initially lives in a one-room brick shed in a slum. Mohan Kumar's wife abandons him. Manjunath misses her mother the most.

Mumbai has huge grounds like Oval, Azad Maidan, and Cross-maidan, full of hundreds of cricket players aspiring to be cricket stars. Radha Kumar and Manjunath become part of
"the filtration system that sucks in strong wrists, quick reflexes, and supple limbs from every part of the city, channels them through school teams, club championships, and friendly matches for years and years, and then one sudden morning pours them out onto an open field where two or maybe three new players will be picked for the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team.” The legendary coach and talent scout Tommy Sir has been into cricket coaching for 39 years. He also writes a cricket column for several newspapers, paints and is a historian of Maratha campaign in the battle of Panipat. He is looking for a new Bradman or a Tendulkar out of these stardom aspirants.

Mohan Kumar has set a brutal cricket training regimen for his sons. Daily practice, healthy diet, daily physical checkups, no shaving till they are 21,no driving a motor car, no pornography,etc.He beats them if they get distracted from their goals, and warns them that if they fail at cricket, they will end up begging outside the railway station. He roots for Radha to be the number one but is dejected when Manjunath outshines his elder brother.

Anand Mehta, a slick investor invests in their cricket careers by giving Mohan Kumar a loan and also monthly sponsorship funds which enables the family to move into a middle-class housing society.

Radha and Manjunath have a potential rival in Javed Ansari, a Muslim boy from a well-to-do family. He is talented and confident with interests other than cricket. He reads George Orwell, listens to Freddie Mercury, plays football, swims, rides a motorcycle, and writes poetry. Manju slowly develops an interest in him. But he is taunted by Javed for being a slave to his father, to cricket and for his lack of interests other than cricket. He urges him to go to a science college.

On the Selection Day for Under 19 Mumbai Team, conflicted Manjunath must decide whether to study science so he can work in a forensic the characters in the CSI: Las Vegas T/V show, ride with Javed on a motor cycle, across India, or play cricket, be with his father, and help him repay Mehta's loan.
In India, cricket celebrities are revered by masses. Among sports, cricket gets lion's share of media coverage. Indian Premier League (IPL) which has a Twenty20 format has gained wide popularity with record attendances. It has added entertainment and glamour to the game and given an opportunity to many promising Indian and international players to participate and earn name,fame,recognition,rewards and awards.
Adiga is a brilliant storyteller with uncommon talent. He has a sharp eye for detail and vividly captures the cricket world of Mumbai. The novel deals with class, ambition, greed, failure sexuality, chasing social mobility through cricket. The engrossing, fast-paced novel is definitely a must read even for those who do not play cricket.
The novel has been adapted into a Netflix Series of the same name.
Aravind Adiga was born in Madras (now Chennai), India in 1974 and grew up in Mangalore. He was educated at Columbia University in New York and Magdalen College, University of Oxford. His articles have appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, the Sunday Times, Financial Times and the Times of India. His first novel, The White Tiger, won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. His second novel, Last Man in Tower was published in 2011.