Sachin Tendulkar's autobiography has predictably been greeted with the kind of breathlessly adoring reaction that only India can produce. The fact that it relates to arguably the finest batsman cricket has known — brightly fades the Don — in a cricket-crazy country like India was enough to generate record pre-launch orders.
Greg Chappell with Sachin Tendulkar. Pic/AFP
Amongst other things, it contains sensational disclosures on the Greg Chappell era and misty-eyed anecdotes of Sachin's courtship days which make it even more of a must read. Being the cricketing giant that he is, it is only to be expected that the autobiography would produce many reactions from the public and the media. I have two such reactions.
Of all his disclosures, the one concerning Chappell is the most intriguing. Sachin owes everything in life to cricket and it would be fair to assume that he would at all times have been prepared to do everything for the game that gave him so much.
If Chappell was the divisive and destructive force that Sachin claims he was, surely it was for Master Blaster, as the most influential player in the team, to confront the man, look him in the eye and sort him out. The whole team would surely have backed him. Coming as he does from a no-nonsense, direct culture, the Aussie would have related to that straight-from-the-shoulder stuff even if he did not like it.
This in turn would have resulted either in his backing off or quitting. On the assumption that Chappell's persona or the way he ran things were indeed such a negative influence, Sachin would thereby have done a great service to the team and to the game which has made him the icon he is.
Why did he not do it? Why did he have to wait till now, when anything Chappell says or does cannot affect him in any way? And at a time when the whole of India, a few nit-picking exceptions apart, would prefer to believe the legend over the coach?
It is quite possible that his priority was to concentrate on his batting on which India was so reliant. Delving into the politics of the situation would conceivably have distracted him from his primary mission.
But if that were so, my polite question is why did he suggest to the BCCI that it were better if Chappell did not accompany the team to the 2007 World Cup? Wasn't that getting involved in the politics of the situation? And if the BCCI took Sachin's suggestion, wouldn't Chappell's absence from the World Cup have drawn media and public comments frenzied enough to disrupt his focus?
The now-famous conversation when Chappell offered Tendulkar the captaincy supposedly took place at latter's residence in 2007 though Chappell denies this. Be that as it may – and one sees no reason to disbelieve Sachin — no one can question that the Australian coach, despite his abysmal man-management skills, was a very astute observer of all nuances of the game.
He took over in 2005 and was surely aware of Sachin's two failures as captain. Rahul Dravid at the time, was the captain of a successful team which had done well in the West Indies.
What I am struggling to understand is why such a keen cricketing brain as Chappell's would want to choose for the top job a man who had two unsuccessful stints as captain (and who was palpably reluctant to be skipper) when the current captain's star was in the ascendancy? There were obviously wheels within wheels and one leaves it to the imagination of dispassionate cricket enthusiasts to draw their own conclusions. But these are spots in the sun. Enjoy the book!