Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Sachin Tendulkar's Playing It My Way: Book Review

Some thoughts on Sachin Tendulkar's autobiography, 'Playing It My Way' that I have been wanting to share. I will try to keep this short.

Rarely have I been so thrilled about a book as I had been for this one. I had pre-ordered it the day it was announced and had waited impatiently for it to arrive for weeks.

Sachin Tendulkar, as most of you I am sure would know, is one of India's greatest ever sportspersons and one of the finest ever cricketers to have played the game. Sachin was not just a cricketer in India; he was an emotion, a hope, a faith of countless cricket fans. He was the reason I began watching cricket actively. He has been one of my biggest heroes. And hence, my expectations from this book were monumental. I mean, knowing about the life of my favourite cricketer in his own words! That was simply too exciting. In the end, however, I was left underwhelmed. Severely underwhelmed.

I checked out a lot of reviews of the book and was surprised to see such glowing praises for it everywhere. Perhaps I looked at the book differently than most did. But my experience with this one was starkly different from the majority.

Save for the first three-four chapters, where Sachin narrates his childhood lovingly and explains how his love for cricket commenced, the book turned out to be a summary-of-sorts of all his pivotal matches. I was quite enjoying Sachin’s descriptions of his boyhood days, his relationship with his coach, Ramakant Achrekar, and how he used to slog it out at Shivaji Park in Dadar, Mumbai. But the moment the narrative shifts to Sachin’s international career, it became clear to me that those chapters had not been written by Sachin but the book's co-author, Boria Majumdar (a senior sports historian).

So we had chapters after chapters breezing through some of Sachin's memorable knocks and milestones. None of them, however, delve deep into what Sachin was going through while achieving them. They read like short essays of his performances. It was like, "I scored this much and it was an important knock. India won and I was happy." Seriously! And there are hardly any fascinating tidbits on the goings-on inside the dressing room. I do not mean to say that we should get something scandalous, but I would have enjoyed some more humorous anecdotes and colour about Sachin's fellow mates' lives.

Sachin also steers clear of the many controversial episodes during his tenure of which he was a part of. The match-fixing saga is again a ‘summary’ of what we all already know and his troubled friendship with Vinod Kambli is ignored completely. Sachin does mention the infamous Dravid episode - when during India’s tour to Pakistan in 2003, stand-in captain Rahul Dravid declared India’s innings with Sachin stranded on 194. That bit is actually captivating and one wishes there were more such instances he had explored.

The best chapter in the book is titled ‘Anjali’. Sachin has really poured his heart out here and it was absolutely delightful to know how Anjali actually pursued the shy Sachin and how vital a role she went on to play in the making of this legend. My respect for Anjali Tendulkar grew manifold after reading this chapter. Sachin truly was blessed to have found such a devoted partner who sacrificed such a prosperous career and focused on building her family with him. I salute this remarkable lady once again!

Sadly, chapters like those are rare in the book. I began to lose patience and was frustrated by the end as significant events were just being skimmed through and no extra insights were being given. Most chapters are like extended Wikipedia entries of Sachin’s career that we are already well aware of. Even the chapter on the World Cup 2011 triumph does not add much value beyond the mundane and almost read like an essay. “We won the World Cup and it was a great moment in our lives” this is how I would sum up what Sachin says in the chapter.

Overall, ‘Playing It My Way’ by Sachin Tendulkar was a huge disappointment for me. I have grown up loving the game because of him and had expected much, much more than what I got to read in the book. I wish more thought was put into making it a much better experience for the readers than giving them stuff that they already know so well about.
I am sorry to say this, but I seriously feel the book was a rushed up job and was released to cash in on Sachin’s immense popularity. The book had released just a year post Sachin’s retirement in late 2013 and the publishers clearly wanted to make the most that memory that had left a tremendous impact on countless Indians. Hence, the praises for the book became automatic. It was almost like it would be sacrilegious to say anything negative about it. It was Sachin, after all.

I, however, will only take back the chapter ‘Anjali’ with me from ‘Playing It My Way’. Save for that, the rest of the book is forgettable. It does not do justice to the man, the legend. If you really want a decent look into Sachin’s life, I will suggest you read ‘Sachin: The Story of the World's Greatest Batsman’ by Gulu Ezekiel. It does a much better job at presenting Sachin’s life than Sachin himself.

I was looking forward to a glorious Sachin Tendulkar straight-drive during a live match and what I got was a blurry replay of that stroke from an old YouTube video that I had watched several times before.

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