The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sachin Tendulkar, Masterful By Peter Murray and Ashish Shukla, Rupa, Rs 395

Sachin Tendulkar is one of the greatest accumulators of runs cricket has seen. Going by his average and the growing number of test and limited-overs matches a modern cricketer plays, this batsman is expected to surpass all milestones ó something that will make him the strongest contender for the seat of the greatest.

Beyond the cricket field, Tendulkar emerges an even bigger proposition ó a growing and prominent presence in the public mind at a time when urban Indian society is undergoing changes in the economic and cultural spheres. Tendulkarís rise, as pointed out in the book, coincided with cricketís transformation into the opium of the mass in the Indian subcontinent, which metamorphosed into the commercial hub of the game.

Tendulkar kept growing in stature, not only as the most accomplished batsman around, but also as the ideal modern-day sportsman. Controversies could not touch him or his conduct on and off the field. Being an embodiment of almost all the virtues revered by the modern Indian, Tendulkar has become the role model ó not just for the sports-minded, but for every Indian aspiring to success.

The most interesting aspect of this book is the attempt to distinguish Tendulkar the cricketer from Tendulkar the social phenomenon.

The book catches a 29-year-old perched on the pinnacle of sporting excellence, fame and money, and tries to analyse what puts him there. It finds that this man from a humble and academically-inclined family meets best the demands of the market forces that govern the modern game. Masterful, essentially, is an evaluation of the brand that Tendulkar is, and not of the batsman.

The bosses of the multinational companies reaping rich on his brand equity explain why it cannot be anyone but Tendulkar: no one else can claim to combine success with such spotless image and modesty. If the events of the last week are any indication, even the governing body of cricket has learnt this the hard way.

Barring a chapter on Tendulkarís impeccable image maintenance, the book can be divided into two sections ó the family man, and his exploits on the field. But the man in Tendulkar remains elusive even after the book has been read. Apart from a few anecdotes, there is little insight into the personal life of the countryís favourite icon.

This is disappointing for the reader, smothered as he is by Tendulkarís overpowering public image all the time.

If this is disappointing, the section dealing with his deeds is disgusting. Several of Tendulkarís memorable innings have been narrated in a most matter-of-fact way, with figures gaining precedence over observation. There is no attempt to answer the question whether Tendulkar is better than batsmen like Steve Waugh and Brian Lara, who can boast of more meaningful contributions to their team.

To make matters worse, this part is full of factual errors, including the playerís date of birth (April 24, 1973 it is and not 1974, as printed). Some of the errors even distort the history of Indian cricket. For example, the authors mention in the introduction that Kapil Devís unbeaten 175 against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup was made when India was batting second. But India were in dire straits batting first, which is precisely why the innings is regarded as an epic rescue act.

This and many more instances of carelessness suggest that the authors were a little too aware of the power of Tendulkar, the brand; and a little too eager to cash in on it at the expense of quality. After establishing the fact that this brand sells like none other, even Peter Murray and Ashish Shukla decide to join the bandwagon. This leaves a question mark over their preference, objectivity, and above all, purpose.

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