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ESPNCricinfo has come out with an anthology on Sachin Tendulkar. Abhishek Mukherjee reviews an outstanding collection of articles from the very finest.
There are anthologies that keep you hooked; there are some you flip through; some others are placed on your bedside table and are consumed within a week; and then, there is Sachin Tendulkar: The Man Cricket Loved Back.
Remember the World XIs we used to make between (and during) classes? Bespectacled XI, Australian Southpaws XI, Sri Lankan Cricketers Without Middle Names XI, and the likes? Seldom have we attempted to make a Cricket Authors XI, but had we made an attempt, almost everyone from the contemporaries would have made it, along with an assortment of the great man’s teammates and adversaries. You name them, you have them.
Sambit Bal, the editor of the website, sets things off fittingly with a preface (which is now available in public domain) that left this writer in a bundle of emotions. It is not another Sachin Tendulkar article. It is one thing to know of a man. It is another thing to know the man. As if the preface was not enough, he signs off with his interpretation of two images: it would not have mattered even if the rest of the anthology had turned out to be an ordinary and hurried one.
Only that it was not.
The quality of the articles is obviously one of the USPs of the book. It had to be, given the ensemble cast. The aspect that makes the collection special is the diversity of the articles and the styles. For example, names like Santosh Desai, Rahul Bose, and Jon Hotten, do not often turn up in cricket anthologies; and that is only, to borrow a clichéd phrase, the tip of the iceberg.
Gideon Haigh (what cricket compilation is complete without Haigh!) touches a completely different dimension of The Little Master when he talks about his frame; Telford Vice narrates a unique experience of arranging an interview at Bulawayo; Allan Donald mentions in details of his duels with Tendulkar; and Ed Smith on “when I write about Tendulkar, for all my admiration and awe in the face of his great achievements, the words will not come.”
There is more. While Greg Chappell, Aakash Chopra, and Mukul Kesavan dissect his style and adaptations to find out his mantra for success, Sharda Ugra takes us back in time when she had asked the nation to stop harping about the hundredth; Soumya Bhattacharya and Osman Samiuddin explain what made Tendulkar the hero he was; Andy Zaltzman combines numbers and humour in a way only he can; and Greg Baum explains why he is “the game’s secular saint”.
Suresh Menon, Harsha Bhogle and Tanya Aldred reminisce their favourite Tendulkar moments in contrasting but addictive styles; Mark Nicholas is as enthusiastic as he is on air; David Hopps recollects his days with Yorkshire; Christian Ryan on why Tendulkar is an Australian at the core (“Give him a pair of bushy mutton-chops and paint a weathered furrow or two on his brow, and Tendulkar could pose for the cover of How to Play Cricket Australian Style.”)
Rahul Dravid, the man who has seen him bat the most at international level, pulls off an excellent recollection; Sanjay Manjrekar recollects Tendulkar’s attitude towards duels; Sourav Ganguly makes you smile with a fresh collection of anecdotes (who would have thunk that a livid Tendulkar had almost sent back Ganguly mid-tour once?), narrating them in a style that characterises the top-notch commentator that he is; VVS Laxman is honest in his gratitude; Yuvraj Singh sounds like the quintessential favourite student in a Professor’s farewell; and John Wright remembers a protégé-turned-friend.
There are also interviews by Rohit Brijnath (what was it like interviewing a young Sachin Tendulkar and a young Brian Lara together, one can only wonder), Sharda Ugra, and Pradeep Magazine, each different from the other, each bringing out a different aspect of the man.
Ayaz Memon has two detailed pieces on the schoolboy Tendulkar and the first Test hundred; Rahul Bhattacharya, rather aptly, gets to write two as well: one on why he was a genius, the other on his final First-Class outing at the obscure Lahli. Sidharth Monga has produced three — one full of anecdotes on the men who knew the man, and two rather unbiased descriptions of the Newlands duel with Dale Steyn and his final Test innings.
My favourite piece of the collection, however, has to be Siddhartha Vaidyanathan’s: “Are you a kid from the ’80s? Or the ’90s? Or are you a straddler, part of the Tendulkar generation that has a foot in each decade? Ah, you stand on the threshold.” And then SidVee goes on, talking us through his journey that is so akin to ours — boys who had turned into men and had lost our last link to childhood when The Man decided to call quits. As he tells us, “You are the lucky ones. Cherish the memories. He was, and will remain, your Model T.”
The book remains, and will remain, a collector’s edition — not only for his fans, but for the fans of the sport as well: it is a collection of some of the finest prose from contemporary cricket authors; it is not a coincidence that they had chosen to write on the most popular cricketer in history along with WG Grace and Don Bradman.
Oh, did I mention that there are delightful photographs as well?
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