Thursday, 6 November 2014

Playing it my way review: This book is a yawn, watch Sachin bat instead

Perhaps the best part of the launch of Sachin Tendulkar's book 'Playing it my way' was the sight of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman sitting on same stage and the banter that ensued.
Take this for instance: Ganguly speaking about how his room-mate Sachin kept him up all night on the 1992 tour of Australia.
"The next morning he fell asleep on the dining table. And I was sleepy. How could I sleep when he was practising in the room all night in front of a mirror, telling me where he would hit the bowlers and how he would counter them... how could I sleep when all the lights in the room were on. After a point, I just gave up and closed my eyes. Leaving him to his own devices."
And then there was the moment when Ganguly told Sachin that he wanted the master batsman to take first strike in an ODI.
Sachin Tendulkar's 'Playing it my way' is a bit of a let down.
Sachin Tendulkar's 'Playing it my way' is a bit of a let down.
"Now, I wasn't scoring too many runs. So I just thought that if we could change things around a bit, it might help me. I, who was the captain, went up to Sachin and asked him whether he would want to try that for a few matches. He just refused. I was the only captain who had to ask the others 'Can I do this?'"
To this, Sachin quipped: "Tu toh aise hi runs nahi banna raha tha (You were anyway not scoring runs,) why did you want to jinx me too."
But perhaps the most touching comments were made by VVS Laxman when he spoke about Sachin's 241 not out at Sydney.
"He cut out the cover drive. Now, how can you not cover drive when Damien Martyn is bowling? I have never seen a batsman control his instincts as much as Sachin did in Sydney. It has to be one of the most scintillating innings of Sachin. You tell yourself that you will control yourself in the early part of the innings but to completely cut out the cover drive and still get over 200 runs gives us a peek into his genius. That and the innings he played against Pakistan -- he was in immense pain but he just kept going for the team."
The discussion was animated, it was fun, it told you things you didn't already know and perhaps it was how the autobiography should have been been, but sadly isn't. Some might say -- what exactly one was expecting Sachin's 'tell-all' memoir to be like?
Well, for starters, the juiciest details of Sachin Tendulkar's autobiography are already out. He speaks about Greg Chappell and his captaincy in some detail, but most of that has already been written about. The rest of it seems to barely skim the surface.
There is not a single mention of the match-fixing scandal that almost destroyed cricket. He explained his stand in a meet with senior editors: "The things I am unaware of fully, it would be unwise to comment on those. I should have some evidence, I should know details to talk about it."
To put it simply, Sachin is saying that everyone was fixing around him but he knew nothing about it. Okay, that is believable but what about his reaction when the scandal broke -- how did he feel, how did the team feel, how did the fans react?
Or even what were the words he and Mohammad Azharuddin exchanged when they met for the first time after the fixing scandal broke all those years back? It all seems to suggest that for Sachin it was a non-event of sorts; an event not important enough to be included in his autobiography.
Then again, when we come to Monkey Gate and the tale is almost told in 'third person.' There are no conversations, no dialogues -- what did the team talk about -- just a plain stating of events. It all just seems to one boring monologue.
"We had had enough... we decided to lodge and appeal against the ban and, in a gesture of protest, we also decided not to travel to Canberra -- even though we had already loaded all our cricket gear into the bus. It was time for stern words and strong action."
So much drama but written in a very ho-hum manner and that is where the fault lies not with Sachin but with co-author Boria Majumdar. The book's narrative is rarely ever gripping -- this is no page turner. It is a book that perhaps only die-hard Sachin fans will truly enjoy. The voice is undoubtedly is Sachin's but then he isn't the writer, Boria is.
The book, especially towards the latter parts, seems like he has gone through the scorecards and then annotated it with his comments.
The World Cup semi-final match against Pakistan finds mention, but again -- Tendulkar runs through it as if he had a train to catch. Sachin calls it "one of the most pressured games of my career" but doesn't quite have the words to make that pressure come alive for the reader.
There are some good bits -- details about Sachin's early life and his wife Anjali -- but on the whole, the book is a disappointment... just a timeline of a career that we all followed so very closely. And honestly, that isn't enough.
For now, I am going back to the Youtube videos and old footage of Sachin batting. It keeps the magic alive a lot better than this autobiography ever will.