Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Tendulkar vs Chappell: We love Sachin, but truth can be coloured by perception


In India, we just love Sachin Tendulkar. He can do no wrong in our eyes and even if he does, then we choose to forgive and forget rather than vilify him. If you were there for his final match -- you would have realised that the love went above and beyond the ordinary.
So when someone comes and tells you that your hero is lying, what is your first reaction? Especially when that someone happens to be Greg Chappell -- a man who Tendulkar is known to 'not like.'
For those who came in late, here's the story so far. In his soon to-be-released autobiography 'Playing It My Way', Sachin Tendulkar has recounted a conversation with Chappell that occurred just before the 2007 World Cup.
Should we believe Sachin Tendulkar about Greg Chappell? Getty Images
Should we believe Sachin Tendulkar about Greg Chappell? Getty Images
"Just months before the (2007) World Cup, Chappell had come to see me at home and, to my dismay, suggested that I should take over the captaincy from Rahul Dravid," he wrote. "Anjali (Tendulkar's wife), who was sitting with me was equally shocked to hear him say that 'together, we could control Indian cricket for years', and that he would help me in taking over the reins of the side.
"I was surprised to hear the coach not showing the slightest amount of respect for the captain, with cricket's biggest tournament just months away. He stayed for a couple of hours, trying to convince me, before finally leaving."
Immediately after the story broke -- a lot of people tweeted at our official account on twitter and said that it all comes down to trust. And if it really is about that then they would prefer trusting Tendulkar rather than an Aussie who rubbed Sourav Ganguly the wrong way, destroyed Indian cricket and once asked his brother to bowl underarm to win an ODI tournament.
But then, this morning Chappell stated his own version of events.
"The claims made in Sachin's new book were brought to my attention earlier today," Chappell told cricket.com.au. "Whilst I don't propose to get into a war of words, I can state quite clearly that during my time as Indian coach I never contemplated Sachin replacing Rahul Dravid as captain.
"I was therefore very surprised to read the claims made in the book.
"During those years, I only ever visited Sachin’s home once, and that was with our physio and assistant coach during Sachin’s rehabilitation from injury, at least 12 months earlier than what was reported in the book.
"We enjoyed a pleasant afternoon together but the subject of captaincy was never raised."
It has become a case of one man's word against the other. With no real evidence to prove that either side is speaking the truth and only their reputations to guide us.
The revelations also raise a few questions: Chappell was no angel but then again did it make sense to offer captaincy to Sachin, whose record as skipper was among the worst in Indian history? Why did Sachin not tell Dravid about this? Why did he save this truth for the autobiography?
The challenge of the autobiography is not just to put out the truth -- rather, given how widely every aspect of Tendulkar's cricket life was covered -- it is to give it the right perspective; to give us the writer's version of the truth; the personal truth -- which may not be the universal truth.
Given that the writer is relying on memories, it is possible that those memories themselves have had the truth imposed upon them by others. It may also be a 'truth' that he believes in. The point of any memory-narrative is to create a 'truth' based on the memory of what happened but what if the memory itself is tainted by emotions?
Constantin Stanislavsky, the founder of the Method style of acting, once said: “We see, hear, understand, and think differently before and after we cross the threshold of the ‘subconscious. Beforehand we have ‘true-seeming feelings,’ afterwards — sincerity of emotions."
That again brings us to why autobiographies are written. Is it the need for introspection? Are they an attempt to finally -- after all those years -- get the truth out? Is it about making some more money? Or is it just a way to stay in the limelight?
Of late, we have seen a glut of autobiographies -- from Shoaib Akhtar to Ricky Ponting and, of course, Kevin Pietersen, whose book is a shining example of how the "truth" can be perceived completely differently depending on one's viewpoint.
Pietersen spoke about bullying in the England dressing room in his autopbiography and everyone -- from Swann to Cook -- was quick to deny that. It left one to wonder how much truth there is in these autobiographies -- how much truth and how much fiction?
Shoaib Akhtar and Ricky Ponting were liberal in their criticism of India and we dismissed that as being a money-making ploy. Akhtar spoke about how Sachin was scared of him, Ponting questioned the master batsman's role in the monkey gate scandal. But Sachin denied it and we believed him.
But the one thing that we can't deny is that this is Sachin's truth -- as much as that was Akhtar, Ponting or Pietersen's truth. And that alone, given how long we have had to wait for it -- should make the book worth a read.