Sachin Tendulkar: 0, Cleaned Bowled. My Mother: 82, exactly
If God were to write about himself, there would be a million controversies. But when the God of cricket writes his autobiography, it becomes a best seller!
Though we have never met, in our home, no mention of Tendulkar can ever be without a heavy tinge of nostalgia and his humble humanity.
As for the book, Playing It My Way, it is more a chronology of events of one of history’s great sporting icons. Easy to follow, if you are a cricket fan; and, if you are not, you would not be holding the book. Think of a game, a year, a match or a series; one finds each episode duly compartmentalised. The book is an easy read. A few pages at a time. A bit over a cup of tea. Another few pages on the couch. It can be put down and picked up again without missing a beat. Open any page and there one finds bits of information. There are few statistics and one is thankful for that.
The man comes across as a boy throughout. He likes to play. That he has mastered his craft and reached Olympian heights is secondary. That just happened. He is a man after my heart. A foodie, he praises his mutton and fish and kebabs with aplomb. None of the hypocrisy usually dished out by those across the divide. And he still is God’s man. Prayers and temples are an integral part of the family. Anjali, Sara and Arjun find loving mention. And, there is the rest of his kin: mom, dad, the brothers and, of course, Achrekar Sir.
Sachin phoned my mother on 13 May 1998, her last birthday. But things went awry. An avid Sachin fan, but nearly paralysed, she would watch his every match, commenting on his every dismissal as if her world had collapsed. A close friend, sports journalist Pradeep Vijaykar, had arranged for her God to call and wish her. It was to become a comedy of errors.
A few months earlier, the author had written a limerick lambasting Anil Kumble for that rash shot in Canada. The next morning, over the speakerphone, a friend called, pretending to be Anil. Mom recognised the voice and said, “Mr Dhoria, I know it’s you.”
So when Sachin called, mom thought it was another one of my pranks. “No, Mrs Malcolm, I AM Sachin Tendulkar.” Mom referred to the name Sachin and asked him what it meant! Stumped, bowled, hit wicket? Or all three?
And yes, I was never forgiven. “I should have recognised that voice,” was all she kept repeating. But she died happy. Thanks, Sachin. Thanks ever so much. It was the greatest of all gifts. Maybe she too had a hand in the hundred 100s.
The story of that 100 is one that every reader will look for. It’s on page 376—information for the impatient. A lot has been written about the ‘quest’ by others, but only the achiever can understand the turmoil in the mind. Sunil Gavaskar had once told Sachin that his greatest achievement was 10,000 test runs. For Sachin, it was the centuries. To each his own. The lifting of the weight is a story by itself.
To tell the truth, the book looks like a hasty job. The very first sentence is not grammatically correct in the classical sense. “Who do I acknowledge first…” But, when your willow talks, who cares about the niceties of Queen’s English? It is the sweet pulp that one is after; and the book has a lot of it.
In Vijay Merchant’s words, the ball was meant to be hit. Sachin did it more than most. The book tells you how he did it.