Another book on Sachin Tendulkar? Yes, you can be forgiven for reacting that way when hearing about the latest publication on the highest run-getter in Tests and ODIs as well as the only batsman to have scored 100 international centuries. But unlike any of the past attempts to praise and chronicle Tendulkar's glittering, awe-inspiring career, Vimal Kumar's book, Sachin: Cricketer of the Century offers insights and praise from a fine assembly line of current and former cricketer players as well as coaches.
Tendulkar's career has been dissected down to the finest detail and it would be easy to believe there is little left to warrant a new publication, but the vast commentary from former and current players and noted journalists is what makes this book different from the usual fodder. The book chronicles Tendulkar's best Test and ODI innings from the eyes of those who played with and watched Tendulkar up close. Refreshingly, most of the insight is left to the experts.
And what a lineup of experts it is. There are those who played with Tendulkar, among them Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Shaun Pollock, Stephen Fleming, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Sanath Jayasuriya, Andrew Strauss, Nasser Hussain, Courtney Walsh and Waqar Younis; who played with him, such as Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni and Kapil Dev to name a few; and those who observed from close quarters the genius of the master batsman - Geoff Marsh, Allan Border, Mike Gatting, John Wright, Gary Kirsten and Vivian Richards.
Each innings is introduced with a brief summary of the match situation, the venue, and what Tendulkar did. That is accompanied by the meat of the book - the analysis and insight of those who played in the particular match or who watched it firsthand.
So you have Kapil recalling how in the late 1980s, after a long day at the nets, he was invited by the late Raj Singh Dungarpur to bowl to a young boy at the CCI nets. Kapil recalls each of the six balls he delivered to a young Tendulkar and how he told Dungarpur the boy had the timing but was too young. Kapil admits it was an inaccurate description, because a year later Tendulkar was in the Indian Test team.
Border recalls Tendulkar's exceptional 114 at Perth, an innings that to date is remembered for a young Tendulkar's courage in the face of adversity on a tricky wicket. Donald terms Tendulkar as an amalgamation of Maradona and Pele, and says his fondest dismissal is the delivery which bowled Tendulkar at Durban in 1996 - his 'best ball' in Test cricket. The late Peter Roebuck - the author's guru - says of Tendulkar's duel with Shane Warne in that masterful unbeaten 155 at Chennai in 1998 "two great cricketers had rolled the dice. Chepauk was agog".
There are many more in the book who were left agog at Tendulkar's brilliance with the bat the world over. Saqlain Mushtaq marvels at how he watched Tendulkar bat in the nets for two hours, take a break for 15 minutes and resumed batting for two more hours only to tell the former Pakistan offspinner that h was satisfied with his efforts. Hayden muses how inside Tendulkar's little frame there lurks a Tiger. Wright, who coached India from 2000 to 2005, remarks of how "the purity of his batsmanship was consistently higher than anyone else's, as was his brilliance day in and day out."
There are many, many such tributes in Sachin: Cricketer of the Century. The praise heaped on Tendulkar is central to the book. Without it, this would be another run-of-the-mill compilation of adjectives to describe an all-time legend. For Tendulkar-philes, this book is a must-own.
Title: Sachin: Cricketer of the Century; Author: Vimal Kumar; Publisher:Penguin Books India; Pages: 277; Price: Rs 299; Rating: 4/5