What's in a title? A lot of thought

In a rare off-the-record moment in 2006, I asked Sachin Tendulkar when he would write his autobiography. There was nothing definite about his answer, but he said he was just starting to think about writing one.

It took a good eight years for things to firm up, and now, cricket lovers can’t wait for November 6 when Playing It My Way will hit the stands.

Tendulkar has beaten his India contemporaries Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in the autobiography race, if ever there was one.

Sachin Tendulkar releases a book at the CCI in 2006. Pic/AFP
Sachin Tendulkar releases a book at the CCI in 2006. Pic/AFP

One expected Ganguly to be the first to come out with his book. Not only because he was the first among the Fab Five to announce his retirement, but also because he has been the most expressive of all modern India cricketers.

Playing It My Way will be a fascinating read with or without a dollop of controversy, which we are all expecting in the book. After all, no publication can top the sales charts without a spicy garnish.

Having said that, not everybody writes a book to be a bestselling author.

The title for Tendulkar’s work is unique. I can’t think of another book bearing the same name, although Glenn Turner, the great New Zealand batsman, wrote My Way.

Book titles can be ticklish and memorable. My favourite one is Brian Close, the brave English batsman who faced the fury of Michael Holding and Andy Roberts at the age of 45 in the English summer of 1976 without flinching. Yorkshireman Close titled his autobiography I Don’t Bruise Easily.

E W Swanton, the famous English writer, entitled his tome Sort of A Cricket Person, something that his friend’s young daughter once referred to him as.

Sir Don Bradman’s Farewell to Cricket was not bland. Ditto his instructional bible, The Art of Cricket, but an outstanding title was Brightly Fades the Don, written by teammate and critic Jack Fingleton on Bradman’s last Test series in England, 1948.

According to Greg Growden, whose outstanding book on Fingleton was released in 2008, the former Australia batsman’s choice of title was inspired by the Russian novel, And Quietly Flows the Don.

Although Bradman scored 508 runs in his final Test series, Fingleton believed the great man’s batting was, ‘only a shadow of what it had once been.’ Hence, the title.

Fingleton’s great contemporary in the cricket-writing sphere was Ray Robinson. The title of his book on Australian captains was apt, smart and enduring. On Top Down Under is one of the best books written in Australian sport, and Robinson is believed to have worn out a couple of good pair of boots while walking to reference libraries all over Australia for his research.

Richie Benaud, who has authored 10 books, starting from Way of Cricket in 1961, came up with Anything But... An Autobiography in 1998, and it was just as the dust jacket mentioned: “not just a remarkable story of Richie Benaud, but an insight into sporting politics.”

Steve Waugh’s Out of My Comfort Zone was a fine title, too.

Among English journalists, the late Frank Keating’s account of the 1981 series in the West Indies was brilliantly titled Another Bloody Day in Paradise, which was not inspired by Phil Collins’ 1989 hit Another Day in Paradise.

And veteran reporter Brian Scovell, who undertook book projects for personalities like Sir Garfield Sobers (Twenty Years at the Top), Brian Lara (Beating the Field) and umpire Dickie Bird (Not Out), titled his book Thank You, Hermann Goering because he spent two years as a child in a hospital after Goering’s Germans attacked Isle of Wight. At the hospital, Scovell got hooked on sports through radio commentaries and the writings of Tom Phillips, then a leading sports journalist.

Among Indian books, Sunil Gavaskar’s Sunny Days, One Day Wonders and Runs ’n Ruins score high as catchy titles, and according to the author, they were easy to title. According to Sandeep Patil, there was a Gavaskar involved in the titling of his autobiography Sandy Storm Mrs Marshneil Gavaskar.

Sunil Gavaskar’s Sunny Days is still rated as the best autobiography written by an Indian cricketer. It had everything sensitivity, inspiring stories, humour and, of course, a dash of controversy.

Indeed, Sunny Days is worth emulating.

Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor

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