Sehwag's poor English skills made him fear the Man of Match award more than an Aussie bowler. Two years after Sachin ‘destroyed his life’, Vikram Sathaye gets cricketers to spills the beans in an all-new web series
Not many would ever say anything derogatory about cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, but stand-up comic Vikram Sathaye has no such filter. Two years ago, Sathaye launched his book titled How Sachin Destroyed My Life, where he chronicled his tryst with international cricket and cricketers through stories, unknown to the average fan. And now he has released a webseries titled What The Duck, which is an extension of his obsession with the sport. It recently released on the digital platform, VIU.
Virender Sehwag had initially turned down an offer to feature on TIME because he didn’t know of the magazine
The show will see Sathaye engage cricketers in playful banter, casual questions on life and career. Sathaye has so far interviewed Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Tendulkar. “I didn’t want the usual chat-show format, where I go, ‘Hello, welcome to What the Duck and we have with us….’ The 14-minute format starts with two guys chilling in a room, engaged in a casual conversation. I wanted it to be informal, and almost a dressing room chat,” says Sathaye, while chatting with us over the phone from Chennai, where he will perform live.
The concept of the show, he says, was on his mind ever since he took to stand-up comedy 13 years ago. “I have toured a lot with the cricketers for various shows, and over the years, developed a bond with most including Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sehwag. Most of the content has been culled out from conversations I’ve had with them on flights or in the dressing room,” says Sathaye, who has performed in more than 1,200 shows.
Gautam Gambhir would listen to Hanuman Chalisa on his iPod before a match
As a cricket fan, he felt there was a fascinating side to cricketers outside the game that people crave to know about. And, for this, you need to be privy to what happens in the dressing room. “Most cricketers come from smaller towns, and are under immense pressure to perform. In front of the media, they can’t let their guard down. So, this is the place where they can be themselves,” he says. According to Sathaye, music is often what helps the Indian team unwind. He tells us of a masseuse called Mane kaka, who had kept a special iPod for each cricketer. While Tendulkar likes Lata Mangeshkar, Dhoni loves Kishore Kumar and Gautam Gambhir listens to Hanuman Chalisa. “Mane kaka would tell me ‘more than giving massage and medical treatment to them, I’ve become their in-house DJ’.”
Sathaye reveals these little-known anecdotes and candid revelations in the webseries.
What The Duck won’t be a televised version of the book, he assures. “It’s an altogether different experience to hear it right from the horse’s mouth instead of reading it in a book.”
Having named his book after Tendulkar, and with a title like that, it’s evident that the author and cricketer share a close bond. “In the past 25 years, so much has been written about Sachin, but people still hunger for more. And there’s always something to unravel about that man.” In the show, Tendulkar talks about how superstitions played a role in his success.
For instance, his brother Ajit Tendulkar refused to let him eat duck before the 1999 World Cup. The reason being that a day before the match, three English players had a duck meal and were dismissed for a duck the next day. “His wife Anjali would sit at the exact same spot while he was at the crease and would not even drink water for the entire duration of his innings,” the comic says. But for Sathaye if there’s one quality that makes Tendulkar a genius it’s how he gets into the depth of an issue. “Once we went to a restaurant to have sushi, and he spent almost two hours discussing the method of preparation with the chef. I ran out of patience,” he laughs. According to him, it’s this aspect that makes Tendulkar and actor Aamir Khan close buddies.”
Sathaye’s upcoming episode is with Harbhajan Singh. “Bhajji fell in love with Geeta Basra after watching her in the song Woh Ajnabee from The Train. When he called her for the first time, Geeta didn’t know who Harbhajan was. He later asked her out, but got no ‘bhaav’ from her. When he won the World Cup in 2011, she sent him a congratulatory message but refused to meet,” he says. Bhajji used to chat up her driver to get closer, and even promised him IPL tickets.
Former India captain Sehwag, he says, is the most fun cricketer to interview because of his sheer rawness. While Sehwag’s on field shenanigans need no introduction — you must have heard of the whistling, chatting and the sledging — not many know of his morbid fear of speaking English. “At the start of his career, Sehwag spoke the worst English, ever,” he says. “In fact, he would dread winning the Man of the Match award because that would mean having to go up to the podium and give an interview in English. So, whenever he’d win, the overall sentiment in the team would be, ‘Oho, Viru ki vaat lag gayi’,” he jokes. Off the pitch, too, the problem would doggedly hound the Nawab of Najafgarh.
“During a diplomatic function in New Zealand when a hostess asked Viru if he’d like to have coffee, he replied ‘yep’. Her next question was, ‘Sir, also what sauce would you prefer in your pasta? To which he again said, ‘yep’, only to be nudged by Bhajji, who came to his rescue, because that’s all he knew of angrezi,” recalls the 42-year-old cricket humourist.
Sathaye says he has consciously picked cricketers from the older generation because they were unabashedly themselves. “Sehwag’s Haryanvi-ness was in-your-face and Singh, minus a filter, made him who he is.” Today’s generation, he feels, is a lot more robotic. “If you see a Hardik Pandya from Gujarat, he comes across as a cool dude from Mumbai. The small-town quirks that defined the earlier generation are missing in the boys today.”
But, if there’s one cricketer, Sathaye hasn’t been able to convince to come aboard the show, it’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni. “He is the most reclusive. His words are measured so he’ll never let himself go completely. But I’m still trying my luck.”