Sachin Tendulkar has made poets of prose writers even if occasionally his strokeplay has demonstrated the futility of conveying in words the brilliance of his batsmanship. Sachin: Genius Unplugged, brings together writers and contemporaries whose perspectives on the player are unique. Their insights are strained through experience.
Like writers and artists, sportsmen are subject to revisionism, with fresh appraisals adding to the known portrait. A good place to start is the contemporary report. How was a player received in his own time? Sometimes reputations grow with every ball not bowled or every stroke not played, and it is fascinating to know what writers think without the benefit of hindsight.
The essays in the book are by writers who have been reporting Tendulkar’s game, analysing his batting, placing him in context, criticising him over the years. It is a first draft of biography, with the advantage that it is not limited to a single point of view.
Every writer has a personal story as well as a measured, professional one, and part of the joy of the book is to read the admission of veteran writers like Mike Coward on how the player figures in his bank accounts, for example. Harsha Bhogle’s first interview with Sachin, Osman Samiuddin’s discussion with his mathematician father, Barney Ronay’s air-cricket, Peter Roebuck’s comparisons with Viv Richards, Mike Marqusee’s deeply felt personal essay, Gideon Haigh’s take on the commercial value of Tendulkar’s bodily fluids, and personal insights by Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Bishan Bedi, throw light on Tendulkar, on the writers, and on the art of sportswriting itself. The Foreword on the most successful batsman of all time is by the most successful bowler of all time, Muttiah Muralitharan.
The book is edited by Suresh Menon, columnist and author, who has known Tendulkar since he reported the player’s debut match in Pakistan. It is a treat both for those who read cover-to-cover at one go and readers who love to dip in now and then, savouring the individual essays at leisure.