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Monday, 28 May, 2001, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
India's cartoon cricketers
Indian boys play cricket during a dust storm
Cricket has a fanatic following in India
By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

India's first cricket comic book has been launched by an American company, Toonz Animation.

The monthly comic series in English, entitled Pakka Toon, deals with the adventures of a fictional cricket team in Bombay.

There is much talk in India at the moment that the immense popularity of cricket is on the wane following recent match-fixing scandals which have rocked the game.

But the launch of the comic book, Pakka Toon, will test whether India's appetite for the game is still undiminished.

Tribute to India's passion

The comic series follows the adventures of an amateur cricket team from Bombay called Miracles.

India's comic book market is said to be vast
At times, the storyline is perhaps a little too close to reality for comfort - such as when a leading sponsor is forced into financing the game having lost a bet.

However, the books are largely a comic tribute to India's passion for cricket - with characters such as Aunty Sweety, the team's coach, who teaches the boys to bowl by throwing tomatoes straight into the frying pan.

Other memorable characters include:

  • team captain Guru - something of a popular rebel
  • Gray, the in-house cricket encyclopaedia
  • Bull, the gentle giant
  • Shaker, a high-strung bowler who can send down thunderbolts
  • and Frog the wicket-keeper

Bill Dennis of Toonz Animation, who produced the books, says the stories are also interspersed with folklore and mythological tales.

The aim, he says, was to create comics which combine both classical and contemporary Indian themes in a fast-paced, modern narrative style similar to that of Hindi films.

Large market

Indian cricket star Sachin Tendulkar
Real life cricket heroes are very popular
The books - which are on sale at the price of 50 rupees ($1.06) each - are largely targeted at children, and will have to compete with other popular English language comics.

There are also many comics in Hindi and other Indian languages.

However, the market for comics, even in English, is thought to be in millions, and the producers hope they can tap into the national enthusiasm for the genre of comic books and cricket.

The producers also insist that all the characters are purely fictional.

Quick to fend off any comparisons with real life cricketers, they stress that the cast of Pakka Toon is inspired by children playing the game on the streets, rather than any of India's cricketing heroes.

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