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Sachin Tendulkar’s forthcoming autobiography will be eagerly awaited, not just in India but also in the rest of the cricketing world. The great man has been extremely private all his life, not giving his opinion even under the most provocative circumstances. Tendulkar says that he is going to be honest in what he writes. H Natarajan lists 11 intriguing questions which the cricket world would like to be answered by the Little Master in his much-awaited autobiography.
There are many things alluring about the Sachin Tendulkar persona. Nevertheless, one aspect that has stood the test of time has been the exemplary restraint he has shown right through his marathon career. However, provocative the circumstances or the people were against him, Tendulkar never remonstrated in words or action.
There were certainly a few moments in his career, when one wished he had something to say because of the gravity of the situation. However, that was not to be. Which is why his autobiography ‘Playing It My Way’, scheduled for release on November 6 this year will be eagerly awaited all over the cricketing world. And because Tendulkar has high credibility, whatever he says will be widely accepted.
As he said: “I knew that agreeing to write my story would need me to be completely honest, as that’s the way I have always played the game. It would require talking about a number of aspects I have not shared in public before. So here I am, at the end of my final innings, having taken that last walk back to the pavilion, ready to recount as many incidents as I can remember since first picking up a cricket bat as a child in Mumbai 35 years ago.”
Those words are clear indication that he will be truthful in what he says, which means it could ruffle feathers — including former teammates, rivals and people in high places.
Below are 11 major issues—some still shrouded in mystery—in which he was dragged into and which cricketing fans would like to know his side of the story:
1. 1999 Ahmedabad Test against New Zealand – Did Kapil Dev over-rule Sachin Tendulkar’s decision to enforce follow-on?
India came into the third and deciding Test at Ahmedabad Test against New Zealand with a 1-0 lead. Centuries by Sadagoppan Ramesh and Sourav Ganguly, and a double hundred by Tendulkar saw India declare their first inning at 583 for the loss of seven wickets. India then bowled out New Zealand for 308—Anil Kumble got five for 82. This is where a cloud of doubt still hangs over the Test. Apparently, skipper Tendulkar had told New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming and the umpires about his decision to enforce the follow-on and instructed his opening ball bowlers [Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad] to select the new balls when Kapil Dev, the Indian coach, who was some distance away when all this was happening, shouted to Tendulkar, “Captain, no follow-on! Our bowlers are tired. We will bat.”
The rest is best excerpted from the autobiography of the former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary, Jaywant Lele, I was There – Memoirs of a Cricket Administrator, “Chandu Borde, the then chairman of the selection committee and I, exclaimed, “What?” Why, why not impose the follow-on? Sachin, as he is a gentleman par excellence (in fact, sometimes more than required), tamely obeyed. After all, the coach of the stature of Kapil was ordering him!”
Lele says that Tendulkar told Kapil, ‘Haan, theek hai paaji, lekin maine to unko bol diya hum follow-on de rehe hai’ (Okay, but I have already told them that we are enforcing the follow-on).” To which Kapil was supposed to have replied, “To phire se jaake bol do, who maan jaayenge’ (So go and tell then again that you have changed your decision. They will agree)”.
The decision was jaw-dropping and it raised eyebrows because, as Lele wrote in his book, “The subject of match-fixing was riding very high at that time”. And rightly or wrongly, a lot of muck was flung on Kapil during the ugliest saga in Indian cricket history.
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: While it is important to know from the then skipper if he indeed declared, what is more important is what his immediate and honest thoughts were when Kapil asked him to do something shocking and unheard of?
2. 2000: Match-fixing verdict – The darkest hour in Indian cricket
Following the release of the findings by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), BCCI acted swiftly, and banned Mohammad Azharuddin, and Ajay Sharma, while Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar and physio Dr Ali Irani were slapped with five-year bans.
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: As an integral part of the Indian team, did he at any time feel that things were fishy? Did he suspect any player any time in his career? If so, did he bring it to the notice of BCCI?
3. 2001, Port Elizabeth Test against South Africa – Tendulkar accused of ball-tampering
This was the only time in Tendulkar’s blemish-less career that he was accused of cheating when match referee Mike Denness questioned his intention for tampering with the seam of the ball, a move which triggered a national outrage. That Denness had also slapped five others Indian players with varying penalties added fuel to the raging fire. There were cries of racism against the match referee, but Tendulkar kept mum.
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: There may not be many takers to the suggestion that Tendulkar is a cheater, but the fact remains that the cameras caught him tampering with the seam. Looking back at the incident, does he feel that he had erred in his judgment and that if the ball needed to be cleaned, he should have done under the gaze of the umpires to remove any traces of doubts about his intentions? Also, what is his take about the savage actions that Denness took against more than half the Indian team in that Port Elizabeth Test against South Africa?
4. 2002 – Ferrari’s custom duty imbroglio
In July 2002, Tendulkar was gifted a Ferrari 360 Modena by former Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher on the Little Master equaling Don Bradman’s 29 centuries in Test cricket. Tendulkar wanted duty exemption on the fancy car. Jaswant Singh, the then Indian Finance Minister, offered to waive off the import duty of Rs 1.1 crore (120% the value of the car), imposed on the car as a mark of honour. However, the laws of the nation said that duty can be waived only when it is a prize and not a gift. Social activists too protested against the waiver. Tendulkar then offered to pay the duty, which Ferrari ended up paying. When he finally sold the Ferrari in 2011, Tushar Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s great grandson tweeted: “When Sachin got his Ferrari as a ‘gift’, he wanted duty & excise exemption; now that he has sold it will he ask for capital gains exemption?”
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: How does he view the criticism about his asking for custom duty relief and fingers pointing at him following the same of the gift?
5. 2004 Multan Test against Pakistan: Rahul Dravid’s declaration when Tendulkar was six short of a double hundred
John Wright, the then India coach, wrote in his autobiography that he spent a sleepless night while Ganguly—the original captain of the team who was sidelined by an injury—was worried that the issue would flare up and tear the team apart. Wright wrote that Tendulkar felt “let down” by the declaration and even said at the press conference that he was disappointed.
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: Looking back in an unemotional manner: Does Tendulkar feel what Dravid did was right in the interest of his team? Also, what did Dravid and he have to say to each other when he [Tendulkar] walked into the dressing room after the declaration?
6. 2005-2007 – Greg Chappell’s comment on his fallout with Sachin Tendulkar
The period under Greg Chappell as coach of the Indian team was one of the most acrimonious in Indian cricket history. Chappell’s relationship with captain Ganguly had gone horribly wrong and it was an open war between Chappell and the Indian captain. But Chappell confessed in his autobiography, Fierce Focus, that he had rubbed several Indian players the wrong way with his approach, and that included Tendulkar. “My biggest regret was falling out with Sachin over him batting at No 4 in the one-day team,” Chappell admitted.
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: What are his own feelings about Chappell regarding the way he approached him in particular and other team members, especially the seniors, in general? What are the moments during the Australian’s tenure as coach he particularly felt agitated about Chappell?
7. 2008 — Monkeygate controversy
Not since the Bodyline controversy did diplomatic relations between two countries come so close to collapsing following on-field acrimony. While the matter was settled and the series went on as scheduled, the embers of that on-field saga continued to rankle the Aussies. Adam Gilchrist dubbed in his autobiography that Tendulkar’s evidence on the matter was a “joke”. Gilchrist then unambiguously questioned Tendulkar’s sportsmanship when by declaring: It was “hard to find for a changing-room handshake after we have beaten India”.
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: What exactly transpired between Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds on the field and what did he—and others—have to say during the deposition? Also, what does he have to say about Gilchrist’s questioning his sportsman sprit?
8. 2011 — Mohammad Azharuddin’s comments on Tendulkar’s captaincy and their post-playing day’s relationship
“If I don’t consider Sachin as good captain, then there are millions who too have their reservations on the issue,” Azharuddin had opined. Azhar also had to say a few words about their relationship as well, “Consider the facts. If Sachin and I haven’t kept up to each other it isn’t earth-shattering news. After all, so many associations and relationships do drift apart after a while. It happens within a family. It isn’t as if I alone am to be blamed for it. The same is true for other former colleagues. I have moved on in life and so have they. We are busy with our lives. Why do we have to keep up the presence?”
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: Azhar’s opinion about his [Tendulkar’s] captaincy will not raise eyebrows, but the comments about their relationship certainly would. Did anything happen between Tendulkar and his former captain for the latter to drift apart and for Azhar to make such comments? Did Tendulkar feel disappointed reading those comments?
9. 2013: IAF drops Sachin Tendulkar as brand ambassador
Two years after naming Tendulkar as its brand ambassador, the Indian Air Force (IAF) dropped him. The IAF had hoped that Tendulkar would be able to motivate youngsters to take up a career in the national air force. However, IAF found their association short on expectations which led to the cancellation of the honorary rank of Group Captain — the first with no aviation background to receive the honour.
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: Everybody knows Tendulkar as a highly patriotic person. To be then dropped so unceremoniously by the armed force of the country must have been very hurtful to his national pride. What does he have to say about his tenure as Honorary Group Captain and the axing?
10. 2013 – Was Sachin Tendulkar asked to retire by the BCCI after his 200th Test?
After three poor series in a row in 2012-13, the halo surrounding Tendulkar was fast diminishing. The calls got louder that the great man must quit. There were reports in the media that BCCI had asked him to step down after playing his 200th Test. Predictably, BCCI rubbished the reports but Tendulkar himself did not say anything about the reports.
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: Was there ever a hint, suggestion or word from the selectors/BCCI asking him to quit?
11. 2013 – The souring of his great friendship with Vinod Kambli
The entire cricketing world spoke of the Tendulkar-Kambli friendship the way Ramesh Sippy portrayed the Jai-Veeru friendship in Sholay. But somewhere along the way, the friendship soured. It was shocking to hear Kambli say on a reality show that Tendulkar did not help him in his bad days. Nobody expected Kambli to say such things about his once-dearest friend. And, when Tendulkar did not name Kambli in his farewell speech or invite him for the post-retirement bash, a hurt Kambli told the media that, “When I needed him the most, he was not there. That’s what I said in the television show [Sach ka saamna]… You will be shocked to know when I had a child he did not come to see my child. That’s what our friendship has come to… When I SMSed him, I would get cold ‘thanks’ as reply. It is Sachin who has stopped talking to me.”
Question for Sachin Tendulkar: That Vinod Kambli is wayward and self-destructive has never been in doubt. That he should have sorted out any difference with Tendulkar than go public, cannot be disputed. Kambli will hardly have any one by his side for moaning against Tendulkar. However, cricket fans would like to know: “What is Tendulkar’s side of the story?”
(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/hnatarajan)
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