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Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,331 ratings  ·  211 reviews
Some remember his impressive career stats ... others recall his on-field arrogance. Some say he fixed matches . . . others say he was dropped for being Tamil! Who exactly was Pradeep Mathew? And what became of him?

WG Karunasena, a man who spent 64 years drinking arrack and watching cricket decides to find out ...If you have never seen a cricket match; or if you have and it
Paperback, 416 pages
Published 2010
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Nancy Oakes
There is a Sinhalese expression "Konde bandapu cheena," which translates as "ponytailed Chinaman," and connotes someone gullible -- someone who will believe anything. A "Chinaman" in cricket terms is (according to Wikipedia) "a left-handed bowler bowling wrist spin (left arm unorthodox). For a right-handed batsman, the ball will move from the off side to the leg side (left to right on the TV screen). " The question asked by the narrator of this novel is this:

"Is this a story about a pony-tailed
Sairam Krishnan
Sep 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had been thinking about buying this particular novel for some time, and I found it at the Landmark at the Mylapore City Centre, now defunct. They were closing down, and some genius had stowed a beautiful yellow hardcover of Snehan Karunatilaka’s cricket novel in the lowest rung of a rapidly-emptying, discounted bookshelf. It was priced at INR 36, less than even the big glass of filter coffee at Saravana Bhavan, which is INR 45. I was overjoyed, and billed it immediately, lest someone recognise ...more
Usman Hickmath
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fierce war, suicide bombings, change in government after 17 years, weakening economy, struggling middle class families and in the midst of all a cricket team which was the only solace of people: Shehan has taken this backdrop to tell the story of an exceptionally talented, rebellious and mysterious cricketer and a retired sports journalist.

Never in my life had I imagined that someone will take the story of bars and betting centers of Colombo, prestige issues and politics involved in school crick
Waqas Mhd
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I’ve read this year (2011).

Let me start with telling this first, I used to like and play cricket a lot. But over the time I just got dragged away from the game and lost all interest in the game. Now I hardly watch or play it. I am not interested in cricket anymore.

So for exactly this reason I was reluctant to pick this book up, thinking of it containing all sort of cricket clichés and stuff, which is another way of making myself bored. I only bought it on the force
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is the second exceptional book that I enjoyed reading this year.Most of Srilankan fiction talks about the atrocities of the civil war and I wanted to read something different that would also lay bare the soul and spirit of the island nation .
Snehan Karunatilaka actually does that by giving us a telescopic view of Srilanka through the eyes of cricket fanatic,aged and retired sports journalist and dying alcoholic Mr.W.G Karunasena ,lovingly called Gamini by his wife Sh
Rohit Enghakat
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I came across this book on GR and was absolutely bowled over (pun intended) by the blurb, the beautiful cover and the reviews. This is a fantastic story about an alcoholic sports journalist W G Karunasena and his quest to uncover the story of Pradeep Mathew who was perhaps the greatest spinner to have bowled on the Sri Lankan pitches. He is aided by his friend and neighbour Ari Byrd and a couple of other colourful characters.

The author has spun a beautiful story incorporating the politics of Sri
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A book about cricket... yes i know i live in South Asia and we're all a little obsessed with this game but a whole book seriously? The answer: OH YES PLEASE!!!!!. This book made me keep going back to Google and wishing with all my heart that the bowler Pradeep Mathews was a real person, that he existed, that he was as great as sports writer W.G. Karunasena made him out to be, that his life was mostly bad luck, that he did disappear to live a life of obscurity. I Googled not just him but all Sri ...more
Indika De Silva
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The following book contains 3 elements that is nearest and dearest to many Sri Lankans including myself. That is Cricket, Sri Lankan society/politics and alcohol. Shehan Karunatilaka takes us through a wonderful adventure through all these elements and much more in this rather long but highly enjoyable novel.

If you are a fan of cricket I highly recommend this book to you. If you wish to analyze the Sri Lanakan society grab this book. For crying out loud...

If you have some part of you which is S
Nov 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best Cricket oriented Novel, and one of the 'Best' novels I have read so far.

Despite being a debut novel the book does not reek of amateur writing. It transported me back to the days of reading 'Jeeves' and other works by P G Wodehouse. Shehan has managed to retain the same vein of wit running throughout the book.

Narrated through an aged, dying,alcoholic Sportswriter, we witness a tapestry of events that shaped Sri Lanka, told in a perspective of Cricket (the National Past time).

Rakesh Divakaran
Suppose there exists one of the greatest bowlers of all time, who has played just four or five matches. Mysteriously he disappears, when he is at the peak of his abilities.  Then an alcoholic journalist decides to tail him.  He has intentions to write a magnum opus about this mysterious apparition known as Pradeep Mathew. He begins to interview lots and lots of people, where unravels the sleazy world of backdoor shenanigans, sexual escapades and match fixing.

This is the basic stuff around which
May 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is very probably the first novel written in English by a resident Sri Lankan author that has any literary merit whatsoever. It's insightful, realistic, funny, ironic and a guaranteed page-turner to boot. I don't even like cricket, but it still kept me reading.

A full review, written from the point of view of a Sri Lankan reader, is available here.
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A rather unusual novel that reads alternatively as a Cricket for Dummies instruction book and a History of Cricket scrapbook.

The author weaves himself into this fictional tale along with well-known international cricketers, and I wondered how he gets away with it, for some of these personalities are not painted in a favourable light. After many local rejections, the final international publisher of the book within this book also hints to taking it on because “getting sued is good for business” -
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must slightly caveat this 5* - if you're interested in cricket, the subcontinent (especially Sri Lanka) and have a tolerance for fictional unreliable memoirs, then you may love this book. If you are deficient in any of these criteria, this may not be the book for you.

However- for those still with me - I think this is a wonderful book. All about unfulfilled ambition, and legacy. And the beauty of sport. The beauty and the glory and the capriciousness and the tragedy - in short, the romance. All
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of the other reviews of this book that you’ll come across have been penned by people who love cricket and understand it properly. But as one who has done her best to avoid any exposure to the game ever since being dragged off to an interminable test match at the MCG by a well-meaning MIL in 1972, I am here to tell you that you can have a deep-seated antipathy to all forms of sport in general and you can rejoice in complete ignorance about cricket in particular - and still love Chinaman, The ...more
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won't say this is my favorite novel, nor one of my favorites. I will say I had more fun reading it than almost any other book I can think of.

I am a huge sports fan, but I don't know anything about cricket. The way this book approaches the sport makes it universal for any fan. The characters, the emotions and most of all the foreboding sense of doom of the underdog fan feels so familiar, and comfortable, to me.

But there is more to this book. The search for Mathew is funny, smart, and maddening
Apr 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: once-again
You need to do a bit of reading up on the side about the matches and the players mentioned.But in all this is a splendid book.Calls out for a re-read.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of cricket, lots of booze and all kinds of fantastic tales. Fact and fiction are spun up into an enticing weave in this story of a drunkard sports writer chasing a missing spinner whom he considers to be the greatest cricketer to walk the earth.

This was an enjoyable read. It is also nicely wrapped up in the end although did feel a tad too long.
Renuka Mendis
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I could write a book about Chinaman; but its late and I am a bit drunk. So consider this a shitty first draft. I hope its ok to say shitty on goodreads.

A post colonial post post modern and well earned insult to colonialism and its barbarities; legacies and loves. Consider jonny; ahem and cricket. And a sweet sweet love song to cricket the way Sri Lankans see it, do it and love it. A highly realistic tale about Colombo people; their lives, loves, hypocricies and most of all their sometimes madden
Mark Staniforth
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sports writer W.G. Karunasena is drinking himself to death. The way he sees it, he has no choice. He needs the arack to sustain him through his final assignment: to resolve the mystery of Pradeep Mathew, the greatest bowler he has ever seen, and a man whose fleeting fame and subsequent deletion from cricket history begs unfathomable questions.
In Chinaman, Karunasena, fondly known as Wijie by his friends and neighbours, and the most unreliable of narrators, given he is blind drunk most of the tim
"I may be drunk but I am not stupid. Of course there is little point to sports. But, at the risk of depressing you, let me add two more cents. There is little point to anything. In a thousand years, grass will have grown over all our cities. Nothing of anything will matter." [pg. 14]

"Sports can unite worlds, tear down walls and transcend race, the past, and all probability. Unlike life, sport matters." [pg. 357]

I know what you're saying. Nobody in their right mind would want to read a book about
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having just come back from Sri Lanka to follow England in their 2 match Test series, this book had a special resonance to me, as the places, sounds and sights described by the author were still fresh in my mind.

While it was suggested that this book would appeal just as much to non-cricket fans, it has to be said having a knowledge of the sport is a distinct advantage. But I wouldn't let that put off those who aren't familar with cricket, if anything a lack of knowledge would add to the sense of
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-asia, own, fiction, 2013
Failed Sportswriter, failed dad, irresponsible husband and alcoholic W.G Karunatilaka is convinced during the last years of his life, that one Pradeep Sivanathan Mathew who made a handful of appearances for Sri Lanka was and will always be one of the greatest cricketers to ever hold a cricket ball. Armed with this conviction and a bunch of buddies, Karunatilaka embarks on a quest to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of this gem of Lanka and the reasons for his exploits purged from all o ...more
Sep 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-view
This book is very much outside of my usual genre, as I have little interest in sports and know nothing about cricket, but something about the concept intrigued me. The story is centered around W.G. Karunasena's quest to learn what has become of Pradeep Mathew who, though arguably the finest cricket player in Sri Lankan history, has been largely forgotten. Understandably, this book is very heavy in cricket-related content, but it is so much more than a book about cricket. W.G.'s meandering narrat ...more
Ravindu Gamage
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A journey through the life of a has-been (never-was?) sports journalist in Sri Lanka, capturing the essence of the lives of average Sri Lankans. Don't mistake this for a sports novel. It's not. It's about Sri Lanka; the beautiful island, the people, the passion, the corruption, the gambling and much more. It's a social commentary about the struggles and the pleasures of the people of this island.

Written in short bursts, taking place in times ranging from the 80s to the 2000s, in no specific ord
Umesh Kesavan
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The author applies CLR James' famous question "What do they know of cricket,who only cricket know?" to the minefield of Sri Lankan politics and comes up with a stunning debut novel. Every page is replete with quotable witticisms and humor-laced one-liners. WG Karunasena, a dying journalist,goes in search of a genius bowler who is missing from the pages of history. In a 500 page long and rambling search, we discover much more than cricket. A must read novel for any category of readers willing to ...more
Not quite sure how I'd rate this one-- I thought parts were brilliant, some was long-winded, and one storyline didn't seem to really fit the overall narrative--a narrative that is not straight-forward at all, but inventive and engaging. The end pulled it together for me, for the most part (one part was still a little hard-to-believe). Will look forward to seeing the reviews, glad I stayed with it to the finish.
Andy Weston
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The best cricket novel I have read - at one stage the author says the reader doesn't need to be a cricket fan - not sure I agree. Filled with cricketing stories of the 70s and 80s and the magic of Sri Lanka I cannot recommend this highly enough - tremendous stuff.
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originality is by its very nature a rare thing, it always has been. But in today’s day and age, when a population can be entertained by re-dubbing, rearranging, remixing, rebooting, re-releasing, prequeling and sequeling, originality feels like it has almost become redundant, a commodity that’s no longer rewarded.

Chinaman taught me that there is still hope for original ideas and concepts to be experimented with. Chinaman challenges the narrative tradition; it just about has a beginning, middle a
Shom Biswas
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-before-2012
Wijedasa Gamini Karunasena, takes immense pride in the initials of his name, which were also those of the first great cricketer, the legendary WG Grace. WG is a semi-retired cricket journalist, but truth to be said, he is subsumed by that strange ailment that affects many from the former colonies of the British Empire. He is a Cricket Tragic, a phrase that if you have to ask for the meaning of, you certainly are not deserving of. Not that you would want to be one either, perhaps. WG, for one, ha ...more
Bernie Gourley
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Chinaman” is the tale of an alcoholic Sri Lankan sportswriter, W.G. Karunasena, who is attempting to write a biography of the man he considers the greatest cricketer to ever live, Pradeep Matthew. The two-fold challenge is that Matthew had a short and controversial career before disappearing off the face of the earth, and Karunasena is in a race to finish the book before the bottle finishes him off. [For non-cricket fan readers wondering about the title, Chinaman is a cricket term for a style o ...more
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Shehan Karunatilaka lives and works in Singapore. He has written advertisements, rock songs, travel stories, and bass lines. This is his first novel.

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