Amidst the setup of the changing cricketing scene in India (with the inclusion of Indian Premier League) and social mobility, Aravind Adiga, in his novel Selection Day, describes the journey of the protagonist Manjunath Kumar as he rises from the shadow of his elder brother Radha Krishna Kumar and finds himself.
The young Kumars hone their skills under the dictatorship of their father Mohan Kumar. Mohan, in his attempt to break through the social barriers and rise above his class hierarchy, prepares his two sons to become the best and the second-best batsmen in the world. Apart from working on his sons’ talents, Mohan makes a ‘secret pact’ with the cricket God Subramanya and prepares a plan which is tormenting for his sons.
Their school coach Pramod Sawant spots their talent and presents them in front of NS Kulkarni, who is commonly referred to as Tommy Sir - a journalist and ‘the best scout in the country’, who has been looking for the next Sachin Tendulkar. Tommy Sir, in turn, gets them into a deal with entrepreneur Anand Mehta, whose financing satisfies the over-intrusive and over-zealous Mohan Kumar.
Despite the fact that the story portrays the layers of modern cricket and how it chews into the lives of the youngsters very aesthetically, the one major problem with the novel is its pace. Adiga, in an attempt to establish the characters and the surrounding with astounding perfection, gets so descriptive that it may make the reader feel like the story is not moving at all. Adiga takes an effort into establishing the scenario of even Mumbai cricket with so much detailing that it spoils the joy of reading.
Apart from the negatives, the character of Manju is the perfect example of a suppressed youngster who is forced to follow a dream that not his own but his father’s. The character of Manju is a most profound character because it portrays all the shades of human emotions. He loves his mother and the mention of her makes him vulnerable and extremely sensitive.
He hates his father for how he tortures him and Radha and also, for what he apparently did to his mother so much that she ran away. Yet, he knows how to calm him down and make him happy. Manju has been portrayed to have a special power of reading people’s minds and that probably comes from the fact that he’s was a very sensitive child. Adiga makes a beautiful effort to subtly put forth the complexities of a homosexuality.
Through the homoerotic friendship of Manju and his rival, Javed Ansari, Adiga portrays how not having to hide one’s self from the world is a liberating experience. Despite the obvious tragedy of this friendship, the emotional strength of the bond is exuberating.
The interesting and constant comparison to the duo of Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli clearly shows, from the word go, where the novel will head to. It is this aspect of the novel that is interesting; it explores the big, passionate world of modern cricket exuding with social unevenness and corporatisation of relationships and people.