Sachin Tendulkar’s batting style was characterized by that famously gargantuan bat coming down arrow-straight delivery after delivery.
But whilst that may have thrilled millions of cricket lovers during his storied career, his ‘playing with a straight bat’ approach was a bit less-than-thrilling at the launch of his autobiography ‘Playing It My Way’ on Friday at Lord’s.
During a 30-minute interaction with the press, Tendulkar – sporting the official Team India tie and blazer – was straight-laced and evasive to the point of frustration on myriad issues.
Surprisingly, India’s greatest sports icon claimed that he wasn’t too familiar with the biggest crisis to engulf the beloved game he played for twenty four years: the West Indies team’s decision to abandon their recent tour of India over a pay dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) – a scandal that threatens to further damage cricket in the Caribbean and beyond.
Responding to a question about whether the all-powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should punish the WICB for its players’ decision, Tendulkar said he had only “read a couple of things here and there” about the issue as he wasn’t following cricket “as closely as I used to” since retiring in 2013.
He added, rather obviously, that the crisis “is not good for cricket”.
The plain nature of the Little Master’s responses continued throughout the session.
Asked what he thought about the treatment meted out to English cricketer Moeen Ali by some British-Indian fans during the recent Indian tour of England, Tendulkar said, “I feel that should not happen. They are there to enjoy good cricket and they should not engage in such activities.”
Among the painfully few moments of levity was when Tendulkar was asked what he made of England’s chances at next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“England? No chance. Not really”, before promptly adding, “sorry”.
He continued: “I feel India can surprise a lot of people. The spinners will come into play. It won’t be all about the fast bowlers. Because of the size of the grounds, spinners will come into play. Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and India should be my semi-finalists.”
For a man who amassed a mammoth 37,000 runs using a dead straight bat and who remains a deity to millions – nay billions – Tendulkar’s answers were unsurprisingly plain, as is his autobiography which was co-written by Indian sports journalist and author Boria Majumdar.
One London-based Indian journalist – an ardent fan of Tendulkar’s – described the book as “not a page turner”.
Despite the occasionally caustic claim – including those which have already caused consternation for a handful of Australians – the book is a drab account of Tendulkar’s career in numbers, stats which have already been dissected billions of times by his billions of fans.
‘Playing it my Way’ (it should ideally have been called Playing it Safe) offers no insights into this magnificent batsman’s psyche, his emotions, his thoughts during a career in which he played with and against some of the greatest players of the modern era and played through some of its greatest upheavals and triumphs.
That however, hasn’t stopped his fans.
‘Playing it My Way’ has already smashed publishing records in India, a mere three days since its release.
Tickets for book signings in London were sold out faster than Michael Eavis could say “Glastonbury”.
Watch the Little Master talk Bradman, Kevin Pietersen, disagreements with Rahul Dravid, rumours, records and his beloved wife Anjali.