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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Look into the mirror, Mr Tendulkar - Anti-Matter

What was Sachin thinking when he and his ghost-writer sat down for the cuppa to pen his auto-bio?

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 an auto-bio about. Just centuries that piled up like jalebis on an Indian wedding plate - they all look discerningly similar and sickeningly bland after the first no gossipy and syrupy masala that people 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!!

Did Sachin 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 his book would have been as drab as his last half decade of his career?
Image Credit Sandeep (snapper san)
For me, from God status going towards Moksha, he reverse geared to Diwana Duniya and became a mere mortal overnight, as he has reduced his life to blame games and petty politics which somehow feels so unbecoming of his otherwise stupendous achievements or demeanour.

Has he not earned enough playing cricket on the green that he could have penned a book cutting out the salacious bedroom talk and focus instead on the greatness of the game which gave him fame. Could it not have been his opportunity to rise above individuals (which most memoirs tend to implode into, as people don't have half the records and achievements of a Sachin, so resort to name ringing)? But instead make a timeless case diary as an encyclopaedia for the true aficionados of the game in its purest form that he excelled 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. SRT reduced his career to a Bollywood pot-boiler 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.

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has truly poked his finger in his eye.

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 of the noise and clatter of the surroundings.

This translated into piling on the centuries 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 auto-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 Chappell, while being drummed and supported by his  lackeys, is indeed being churlish and immature.

So let's come to Greg Chappell.

But for a moment, indulge me some stereo-typing. 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 Ozzies…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 to go up in flames. In my view, GC did his job. If he found Saurav unfit for the top job, he had his reasons. If he found Dravid better or worse, he had his reasons. And if he found SRT 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.

G Chappell 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 Saurav when GC was coach while he had the maximum problems with him - that’s a true oxymoron. But you can't deny that he shook the system by the scruff of the collar, bringing in a degree of fight and aggression not consistently seen in Indian cricket. 

And then at the other end of the spectrum was Kapil Dev, who 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), 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 hated them both!

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 that 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 Dhoni however great he may be.

The Multan test declaration was an eye opener to me. By his own admission, Sachin became quiet and reclusive with Dravid's decision. This to me is all that Sachin is about....records. The captain decides for the team, however wrong or right the decision turns out, not for the individual. 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. But in public conferences mouthing inanities like - “I play for Team India and not for myself”. An obvious contradiction.

And the betting controversy that was the integral part in the greater 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, Sachin did 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 4th 2014 to stamp his presence with a century to be forever remembered - he would be remembered for the duck he scored by "Playing it His Way".

Contributor - Faiz Ahmad, India

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