As soon as I had read Chinaman – The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, in spite knowing that the book is a work of fiction, I googled for Pradeep Mathew. That is the power of the book. I knew that there is no such person, but the way the story has been weaved and the way it evolved it leaves you thinking, wondering “What if?” And the writer, Shehan Karunatilaka, has also taken care of all the details. He has created websites where you can find mention of this bowler, he has a few pages where the different balls bowled by this mystery bowler have been detailed, and there is an even fake Cricinfo profile. (I am too lazy to link to those articles, but a simple Google search should yield all these things)
Chinaman is the story of an aging Sri Lankan sports writer W. G. Karunsasena and his search for the best cricketer that Sri Lanka has produced, supposedly Murali learned his tricks from Pradeep Mathew, Ranatunga got his confidence to stand up to Australians from him, and our mystery cricketer is the one who gave wings to Sanath Jayasuriya’s aerial shots.
There are a few books which when you read you get lost in its world. The writer has such a grasp on you that you feel whatever is happening in the book is real, not fictional. For me it has always been a problem that I get too involved in a book, and here also I was so engrossed in the book that I would like to believe there is a guy named Pradeep Mathew and he is the best cricketer that Sri Lanka produced. The story follows Wije as he tries to find the cricketer who has vanished, and along with his search there are glimpses into the life of Sri Lanka.
If you have not read this book, pick it today. It is a compulsive read.
P.S.: Wrote this last year November, posting it in May