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Playing it My Way: More a duck than a century - How Sachin Tendulkar lost the plot when it mattered the most

  • Could it be a missed opportunity to create a timeless case diary for the true cricket aficionados, an opportunity to inspire youngsters who dream of emulating him, rather than share prejudices and go witch- hunting.
Navin Anand
ANALYST
Feature
Modified 16 Nov 2014, 20:23 IST
Sachin Tendulkar

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author’s and do not reflect those of the site. 

What was Sachin Tendulkar thinking when he and his ghostwriter sat down for the cuppa to pen his autobiography?

Probably his publicist was in a hair-pulling dilemma. Here was a guy who had a squeaky clean image (along with a squeaky voice), no flings and bash-ups, no affairs to remember, no brawls or outbursts: in all, a boring guy to write a bio about. Just centuries that piled up like jalebis on an Indian wedding plate, and they all look discerningly similar and sickeningly bland after the first few. No gossipy and syrupy masala that readers salivate for. So, instead, go find a Pac-Man that all want to hate and kill and voila; Greg Chappell offered himself to plunge their knives into. And, to a lesser degree, his elder sibling Ian, as well. 

Did Tendulkar need any more negatively positive publicity? Did his publicist con him into sharing dressing room secrets to drop a few more pennies into his piggy bank, as, otherwise, the book would have been as drab as the last half decade of his career?

The lost opportunity – how it could have been 

From being in a God status approaching moksha (emancipation), he reverse geared to Diwana Duniya and became a mere mortal overnight, thereby reducing his biography into a compendium of blame games and petty politics, which somehow feels unbecoming of his otherwise stupendous achievements and demeanour.

Has he not earned enough playing cricket on the green that he could have penned a book cutting out the salacious bedroom talk, focussing on the greatness of the game instead, which gave him fame? Could it not have been his opportunity to rise above individuals ( name ringing is what memoirs tend to implode into when people don't have half the records and achievements of a Sachin)?

He could have easily made a timeless case diary that would serve as an encyclopaedia for the true aficionados of the game in its purest form that he excelled in. It could have been inspirational to all those youngsters who want to emulate him for his greatness and contribution to the game rather than share prejudices and have a bare-all, tell-all story. Tendulkar needn't have reduced his career to a Bollywood potboiler in a trice with plots and persons. 

Since all through his playing career he kept saying that he will make his willow do the talking, why in his memoirs has he made his word and his Indian cricket world look like a vile, vicious and scheming entity?

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I believe Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has truly poked his finger in his eye and has missed a big opportunity, as well. 

Not taking away the greatness of the man and his personal records, his image cultured and cultivated all through his playing career had been one of a person focused and committed to playing cricket, impervious to the noise and clatter of the surroundings. 

This translated into piling on the centuries, often when it mattered less than more, and the scoring for self-pride and records. His records though awesome in isolation were shadowed by self-fulfilling needs.

His reputation though seemingly blemishless has had some glints of nepotism and manipulation through the Ferrari and the BMC issue. The ball tampering case is also on record. So, to call a spade a shovel looks empty and vacuous. The bio doesn't believe in coming clean on all this.

And, awkwardly, bending the great game down with his larger than life perspective by isolating and flogging a fall guy, Greg, while being drummed and supported by his lackeys, is indeed being churlish and immature.

Greg Chappell – an easy target

Let's now come to Greg Chappell.

But, before that, allow me some indulgent stereotyping. Let's understand us Indians: we are a set of emotional, nervy, clannish, over-sensitive, whining individuals always finding an excuse when we fail or flounder (The Poms finish dead heat with us - blame it on them for their colonial hand-me-down). And then let's look at the Aussies: they come across as an aggressive, boorish, professional, devil-may-care attitude, manipulative, strong-willed characters. Now this inter cultural mashed up, mismatched relationship from the very beginning was a tinder box ready to go up in flames. Denials aside, from his viewpoint, Greg was doing his job. If he found Sourav Ganguly unfit for the top job, he had his reasons. If he found Dravid better or worse, he had his reasons. And if he found Tendulkar an able choice, he had his reasons too.

The coach is needed to guide players, build their careers and drive the team forward to sustained achievement. But Indian cricket has had several prima donnas and personas that are larger than the game. So the coach will always be at odds with his team under the circumstances, as he doesn't shape talent but ends up stroking egos. And if the coach has strong feelings and is self-opinionated, he’s a dead man walking.

Greg was a coach who believed probably in getting performance through confrontation and speaking his mind rather than conciliation. And his records speak for themselves. India's winningest captain in that era was Ganguly, and he had some famous problems with him. But you can't deny that Greg challenged and shook the system, bringing in a degree of competitiveness and aggression not consistently seen in Indian cricket. 

And then at the other end of the spectrum was Kapil Dev, who is like Salman Khan's refrain from Big Boss before sign off of each episode, “Do whatever you want to do, maan". That didn't go down well with the Tiny Master (Little Master already patented for Sunny), who felt he wasn't a true guide. So on one end of the spectrum you have a dictator and the other end you have a liberal, and you hate them both. That’s interesting! 

It would then behove that the great man desired one from his Bandra household to be his coach, to either stroke or strike him as per his own dictates. 

Professionals at the highest level, with those achievements, don't need coaches. They need to coach themselves and remain inspirational and reach the Zen state on their own. If they need a coach, then they abide by his diktat without a murmur, a la MS Dhoni however great he may be.

Multan Test revelations – gives weight to the ‘he plays for records’ theory

The Multan Test declaration incidents are an eye opener, too. By his own admission, Tendulkar became quiet and reclusive with Dravid's decision. This, to me, is all that Tendulkar is about: records. The captain decides for the team, and not for the individual, however wrong or right the decision turns out. And as a senior, one should take it in the stride and set an example for the youngsters in the dressing room rather than sulk and show feelings of disdain that a personal milestone was missed. Yet in public conferences you mouth inanities like “I play for Team India and not for myself”, which ring as obviously contradictory. 

And the betting controversy that was an integral part of a great chunk of his career – he could not have been a silent spectator or an innocent bystander or a knowing innocent who slept through it all. As a sportsman or a cricketing statesman, he could have been the catalyst to clean the rot, but he chose silence over disclosure. 

I am not getting into his flawed captaincy. That to him was his Achilles heel, and, if that too was breached with diamond studded victories, the equivalent of a Paramatma would have been born in India.

And his latest acquisitions of an MP nomination or the Air Force anointment came with responsibilities but didn't get fulfilled.

Whatever may be said, Tendulkar did a great service to Indian cricket. He did bring a new zing to our efforts, raised expectations, created a buzz, electrified stadiums and brought a whole new generation into the arms of cricket. But when the day dawned on November 4, 2014, to stamp his presence with a century to be forever remembered, he could only manage what will be a memorable duck for years to come – in the form of "Playing it (My) His Way"!

The article is co-authored by Navin Anand and Faiz Ahmad

Published 16 Nov 2014, 11:15 IST
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