Salman Rushdie has a new hero. It is Tiger Pataudi. The novelist, who lost an eye during an attack while making a speech in upstate New York, writes in his book, Knife, thus: “I decided that Tiger would be my role model. If he could face up to the ferocious speed of (Wes) Hall and (Charlie) Griffith, I should be able to manage to pour water into a glass without spilling it, and in general succeed at being functional as a one-eyed man in a two-eyed world.”

Is Rushdie a cricket fan? There are two stories that have done the rounds. One is of him playing outside his house in Mumbai in the 1950s, with, I think Polly Umrigar being the childhood hero. The other is of him saying over a decade back that he supported the Indian cricket team. I am not sure if either is authentic — they sound ‘Bollywood cute’, if you know what I mean. Like anecdotes stitched on to stories post-hoc after a person becomes famous. I may be wrong, of course, and Rushdie might have pretended to be Hazare or Mankad while playing with his mates as a boy.

But he has, like James Joyce, used the names of cricketers for characters in his novels. Joyce’s Finnegans Wake has W. G. Grace, Ranji, Fry and other players of the golden era. There is even a slim book, Cricket in the Writings of James Joyce.

In his most recent novel, Victory City, Rushdie gave the sons of his fictitious Pampa Kampana the following names: Erapalli, Bhagwat and Gundappa, thus immortalising the three greats of Karnataka cricket, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Viswanath, and appropriately enough in a novel based in Karnataka.

As an aside, it is 50 years since they played key roles in Karnataka’s first-ever Ranji triumph. But the Karnataka State Cricket Association is yet to name stands after them!

The names of the fictitious sons were chosen by their father Bukka Raya I. According to astrological charts, “Gundappa meant the child would be generous and high-minded, while Bhagwat meant that he would be a dedicated servant of god, and Erapalli suggested an idealistic dreamer with much imagination….Bukka conceded to Pampa Kampana in private that the boys’ actual characters largely disproved the value of the astrologer’s predictions….”

In his earlier The Moor’s Last Sigh, former India player Abbas Ali Baig plays a key role. When Baig got to a Test fifty in Mumbai against Australia in 1960, a young lady ran from the stands and planted a kiss on his cheek. Three decades later, Rushdie created The Kissing of Abbas Ali Baig , a painting, in his novel.

“My mother (Aurora) was inspired,” says a character, “She rushed home and in a single sustained burst completed the painting, in which the ‘real’ shy peck, done for a dare, was transformed into a full-scale western-movie clinch. It was Aurora’s version that everyone remembered…”

Some scholar might even now be working on Cricket in the Writings of Salman Rushdie…