Sachin Tendulkar needs no introduction. One of the best batsmen to have heralded the 22-yard pitch, a lot has been written, said and even filmed about him. Devendra Prabhudesai’s Hero: A Biography of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, however, delves into the finer nuances of Tendulkar’s life. It also, interestingly, traces the transformation of Mumbai from an upscale middle-class suburb to the financial behemoth it is today. The book, divided into three sections—Prodigy (1984-91), Peerless (1992-99) and Perceptor (2000-13)—elaborates Tendulkar’s transition from a 16-year-old middle-order batsman to being the batting mainstay of the Indian cricket team. It traces the rise and fall of the Indian cricket team around Tendulkar and the role it played in his career. The book has a linear narrative, with detailed description of events that shaped the maestro’s life. In the first part, Prodigy, the author talks about the kid with an unimaginable talent for the game and his hunger to make it big on the field. It follows Tendulkar’s rise from the dusty maidans of Mumbai to the green top at WACA sports stadium in Australia.
However, what never changed was the attitude with which the lad from Sahitya Sahwas, Mumbai, took on international bowlers from across the globe. Prabhudesai defines India’s cricketing history by comparing the batting stalwarts it produced, such as Vijay Merchant, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, with the various avatars of Lord Vishnu. Bestowed with all the strokes, Merchant abstained from aerial shots and aggression to lend stability to the team, which was in a fledgling state during his career spanning 1933 to 1951. Such was his stature on the field that after his resounding success in England in 1932, CB Fry—an Ashes legend himself—suggested to the English team to paint him white and take him for the 1936-37 Ashes in Australia with them. Merchant was followed by Sunil Gavaskar, who paved way for Tendulkar on the main stage. Picked for the Ranji Trophy squad in 1987, Tendulkar was the youngest ever to take the field for Mumbai. But age was no hindrance for him—something that he proved towards the end of his career too. The book is full of anecdotes, most of them never mentioned before, and Prabhudesai has done a great job in not only bringing information from various sources (friends, scribes and contemporaries), but also in narrating it all in an interesting style.
One of the lines in the book, “Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar led Indian cricket ‘formally’ for only 2 of the 24 years of his international career, and ‘informally’ for the other 22”, sums up Tendulkar’s contribution to the nation. Prabhudesai, being true to the cause of writing, does mention Tendulkar’s only failure till date—his inability to captain his side successfully. Appointed as captain not once but twice, he couldn’t get comfortable in the captain’s shoes unlike his contemporary, old friend and opening partner-in-crime Sourav Ganguly. In an otherwise glittering career, being a successful captain remained the only jewel that eluded his crown. But he never held any regrets. “I wanted it the first time and believed that I could make a success of it. But when I lost it, I did not think of it again. Let me make it clear that I did not want the job when it was thrust on me the second time… The second time around… I should have refused (the job) and spared myself unnecessary strain and hassles… I can’t be me when I am the captain… Other than this phase in my career, I have no regrets about any of my actions,” Tendulkar says.
However, his stellar role in Indian cricket—whether it was during the infamous fixing scandal in the early 2000s, taking the team home for its first series win in Australia or scoring a mammoth 34,000 runs across all formats—can’t be doubted. It was apt for a sportsman of his calibre to have been given the kind of farewell that his teammates gave him. Images of him being carried on the shoulders of Virat Kohli (touted to be his successor), Yuvraj Singh (a player he saw grow with time) and Harbhajan Singh (the man who scripted one half of India’s greatest comeback of all times against Australia at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, in 2001) are still afresh in everyone’s minds—very much similar to the time Tendulkar first took guard at the international scene. It’s this imagery, spanning over two-and-a-half decades, that Prabhudesai has been able to capture in his book. Hero is a well-researched effort by Prabhudesai. The flow of the book is fluent, similar to Tendulkar’s famous straight drive. It holds on to the reader’s attention despite the facts presented in the book being known to the world. Hero is a much valued addition to the long list of publications on one of the game’s finest players.