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There is no good book on Sachin

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Sachin_Tendulkar_India_cricket_booksIn a way, Sachin Tendulkar – who is hero-worshipped by his legions of fans even after retirement – has contributed substantially to cricket’s already rich literature. Except Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji (better known as Ranji), W.G. Grace, Don Bradman and Garfield Sobers, no other cricketer (certainly none from the subcontinent) has inspired as many books over the years as the record-breaking Indian.

Tendulkar himself may have penned only one book, Playing It My Way, but tales of his phenomenal career keep coming out in print from time to time in all shapes and sizes and styles.

 

The number of Tendulkar books has noticeably rocketed in the last five years; specifically, after he played a stellar role in India’s World Cup triumph in 2011; more so since he called it a day three years ago.

There have been nearly 25 or more books written on Tendulkar in English alone, in addition to the others in different languages across the cricket world, which speaks volumes for his greatness and popularity. Just like Ranji, Grace, Bradman and Sobers, the little big Indian continues to fascinate writers and there will surely be many more books about him in future. Who knows: befitting his penchant for hitting centuries, the tally of Tendulkar books may well cross 100 one day.

Unfortunately, while the quantity of Tendulkar books and biographies is quite impressive, the quality of many leaves much to be desired. His much-publicised and widely-translated autobiography, Playing It My Way, has failed to receive rave reviews from serious students of the game. Already poor in language, style and narrative quality, the book conceals more crucial things than it reveals with its staid prose, further letting the reader down. All this despite the co-author being well-known cricket historian Boria Majumdar.

But Playing It My Way has become such a smash hit with Tendulkar’s devotees that it has been translated into several different Indian languages. And why not? Tendulkar remains one of the most saleable commodities in Indian cricket even when he is no longer an active player. Publishers are striking the iron as it is still hot.

Sports books are hardly written keeping in mind the cognoscenti unless, of course, the writer is Neville Cardus. Average fans – and cricket on the subcontinent has always thrived on such followers – do not bother about the quality of style or the subtleties of language. Hence most Tendulkar books, many of them utterly lacking in class and quality, written just to cash in on his name, make fast bucks and earn some fame in the bargain, have usually sold like hot cakes.

 

Many scholars have essayed extensive research on Ranji and Grace – the milieu they grew up in, how the society viewed them, how their game impacted both cricket and society, and many other things besides – and come up with some really brilliant books. Not a single Tendulkar book can be classified as a work of serious research, or art, leave alone a classic.

In 1999, veteran cricket writer Rajan Bala had written a book on Tendulkar aptly titled The Phenomenon. Contrary to expectations, there was only disappointment in store for the serious readers as even a writer of Bala’s calibre did not say anything new about Tendulkar, who had completed nearly a decade in international cricket at the time.

The problem is that Tendulkar is a household name in India, famous worldwide and commands a mind-boggling following. His diehard fans across the cricketing globe keep a tab on every bit of detail and information about him. So much has already been said and written about, as well as seen of, Tendulkar that very little is actually left to highlight.

Writers are in an unenviable position when it comes to writing on Tendulkar. Unsurprisingly, most Tendulkar books are usually full of too-well-known facts and figures, records and statistics, comments and quotes, anecdotal and trivial details that are repeated from a previous work, but put differently in the style of ‘an old wine in a new bottle’. Some books are nothing but anthologies of selected articles written on the maestro.

Cricket journalists who know a bit too much about the players often appear confused and struggle to decide on what to write and what not to write (not just regarding Tendulkar). It is not surprising that few professional Indian cricket writers have tried their hands at longer-form writing. For all his experience, clout and the following he enjoys, R. Mohan, one of the most respected cricket writers in the world, has not written a single book, though he has ghostwritten one for a former Indian cricket captain.

The irony is inescapable: despite there being so many books about Tendulkar, there is still no truly great book (or two) on the most perfect virtuoso of total batting. Cricket still craves an outstanding book, as befits the status and achievements of one of its most illustrious practitioners.

Trivial details are fine to keep the hoi polloi happy. But Tendulkar is a serious subject and his extraordinary career merits a serious treatment. Unfortunately, the world has lost two very insightful and powerful cricket writers, Peter Roebuck and Mike Marqusee, in recent years. Both were big admirers of Tendulkar. How one wishes they had written at least one book each on the Indian legend.

It is not that others are not qualified to write on Tendulkar. There are plenty across the world. It is just a question of having an inclination. Maybe someone like Ramachandra Guha, or Suresh Menon, or Nirmal Shekar, or Rohit Brijnath, or Sharda Ugra, or Simon Barnes -- all of them brilliant and respected cricket writers -- will take up the task one day, capture Tendulkar’s essence and unfold it beautifully in a book worthy of his genius & his glory.

 

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Haresh Pandya is one of India’s leading cricket writers – highly experienced and widely published i...

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