Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
Siddhartha Mishra| The News Minute | November 14, 2014 | 6:15 pm IST Note: This piece of writing is like a highlights package.  It’s difficult to be dispassionate when writing about Sachin Tendulkar. There remain a few common strands that unite us Indians, he is one of them.    The story of Tendulkar, as told in his autobiography, Playing It My Way, is more than just his. It’s a success story of middle-class India taking globalization head on. As a boy growing up in the 90’s in a “small-town” I almost studied him, wide-eyed. And as a college student in Manipal I jumped up and down on a couch in a bar in Manipal on the night of April 2nd, 2011 chanting “Sachin, Sachin...”   The book, co-authored by cricket historian Boria Majumdar, starts with almost a symbolic mention of his successor at No. 4, Virat Kohli, in the prologue. It goes on to describe Tendulkar’s childhood, his first brush with Chinese cuisine, and the stubborn child who “sulked and tried to guilt-trip my parents into buying me a bicycle”. Here we are also introduced to his coach, Ramakant Achrekar, one of his biggest influences, and also to Vinod Kambli and his impetuousness. His partner in crime at the Shardashram Vidyamandir, where they studied and had a world record stand of 664 runs, resorted to kite-flying in the middle of one of their innings. His debut at Karachi, November 1989, as a 16 year old against a Pakistani pace battery of Imran Khan, Waqar and Wasim is already the stuff of legend. As is “Main khelega”, after being bloodied by a Waqar bouncer in Sialkot with a banner in the crowd saying “Bacche ghar jaa, doodh pie kea aa”. He scored 57.  At Old Trafford, 1990, after scoring his first Test hundred he already talks of having “presence” at the crease à la Viv Richards. As a 17 year old in England he first mentions his fascination with cars and their “engineering” and his inability to enjoy his first MoM champagne bottle. He popped it open on his daughter Sara’s birthday in 1998.  The five year courtship of his later wife, Anjali, with the shy Tendulkar letting her do the talking as he was not “fluent” in English, makes for interesting reading. Also do his driving disasters in Yorkshire as the young lad came to grips with life as a county player in England. In a sign of changing times, he became the first man to be given out by the third umpire and was introduced to Jonty Rhodes and his fielding prowess, which he cited as “making a significant difference to the outcome of the series”. At the 1996 World Cup, he mentions feeling like “kings” after the Pakistan game and admits that the team “misread” the pitch before the Sri-Lanka game which knocked us out. There is also marked disappointment with his captaincy stint which ended in failure, and there is more than a passing mention of selectors interfering.  Bouts against Australia always seemed to bring out the best in the little man and he mentions the weeks of preparation for Warne in 1998. His competitive side also seems to come to the fore in these matches with him chewing painkillers on the Wankhede pitch in 2005 during the “tennis elbow” period. There is extensive mention of the Test series in ’98 and his exploits at the Coca Cola cup in Sharjah the same year. Sachin doesn’t pull his punches either on “Monkeygate” or on the Chappell brothers, while also calling Steve Waugh his “bunny”. There are also remarkable insights in the book as Tendulkar cites how he ‘figured bowlers out’ with him asking an umpire once to crouch in order to figure out the shine on Pedro Collins’ deliveries. “Shoaib Akhtar would swing his bowling arm twice before he delivered his effort ball”, he says and Murali would “have his thumb on top of the ball when bowling a doosra”.  He recounts the 2003 World Cup as a “bitter-sweet memory” and the 2007 edition as one of the “lowest points of my cricket career” and as the book enters the mid-noughties it does taper off as did the master-blaster’s career due to a spate of injuries. The anecdotes keep coming though, like the one where Sachin asks the coach John Wright not to interfere with Harbhajan Singh’s headspace on a tough wicket in New Zealand in 2003. The spinner was hardly much of a batsman and in his typical ‘gung-ho’ manner threw everything at the ball only to emerge as the only one with a double-digit score, much to Wright’s amusement.  The highlight at the end, as with his international career was the 2011 World Cup. He remembers not watching the tournament-winning six by the captain MS Dhoni on April 2nd as he and Sehwag sat in prayer in the dressing room. He recounts it as his “pinnacle”.  As his career neared its end, Tendular mentions the race to the hundredth hundred and the coverage surrounding it. The “obsession” turning into “hysteria” with people “starting to calculate my scores backwards from 100”and he remembers feeling “50 kilos lighter” after the innings. If you read the book hoping to dig out controversy, you’d be disappointed, maybe even forgiven in equal measure for that’s not how Tendulkar operates. He begins the book quoting his father, the late poet Ramesh Tendulkar: As a parent, I would be happier hearing people say, “Sachin is a good human being” than “Sachin is a great cricketer” any day.’ He certainly triumphed as the latter and most of us would agree, as the former as well.  Signing off at the Wankhede stadium, November 16, 2013, he reserved a few words for me. “Sachin, Sachin’. That will reverberate in my ears … till I stop breathing”.  The writer was a student in Manipal during the 2011 World Cup, and is not a “massive” fan.

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