Tendulkar displays questionable shotmaking in his autobiography

Date: November 9, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

TendulkarSir Donald Bradman aside, Sachin Tendulkar is arguably the biggest name in cricket.

Hence, the release this week of his autobiography was a much anticipated affair.

No man has played more Test matches (200) and ODIs (463) and with an international career that spanned 24 years Tendulkar’s story was always going to be painted on a broad canvas.

Noticeably reserved with respect to speaking on some of the bigger issues in the sport during his playing days, the little maestro from Mumbai chose in the main to let his bat do the talking.

However, now that he is in retirement he has become more expansive in his shot making when it comes to speaking on the most contentious issues during his career.

In the lead-up to the book’s mid-week release typically tasty morsels were fed by the publisher to numerous media outlets.

Interestingly, most of those salacious titbits centred on Australian players – past and present.

It is worth keeping in mind that Tendulkar’s tome is primarily angled towards his 1.2 billion countrymen.

It is no secret that whilst many Indian cricket fans have great affection for the feats of many of Australia’s modern-day cricketers they are not always as enamoured with the way they have gone about their work on the field.

One of the most contentious moments in Tendulkar’s career was the infamous “Monkeygate” at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January 2008 where his teammate Harbhajan Singh was accused of calling Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds – a man with West Indian heritage – a “monkey”.

Initially found guilty by match referee Mike Procter and suspended for three months, Harbhajan successfully appealed his conviction and had the ban lifted.

Several of the Australian team were openly critical of Tendulkar’s role in the hearings where he oscillated from saying he did not hear the conversation between the protagonists to stating that he had clearly heard what Harbhajan had said.

His testimony at the appeal held great credence with New Zealand High Court justice Alan Hansen who oversaw the process.

The inference that Tendulkar had lied greatly rankled him and in his book he set out to qualify his role in the saga.

In his extensive reference the book to that Test he also questioned the sportsmanship of the likes of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist with respect to catches that were claimed whilst Australia was in the field.

Another of the juicy exerts that got an airing ahead of the official launch surrounded Greg Chappell’s tenure as Indian coach.

Tendulkar maintains that Chappell visited his house ahead of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean and tried to convince him to return to the captaincy of the team at the expense of the incumbent, Rahul Dravid.

Tendulkar writes that Chappell told him that he and Sachin could “control Indian cricket for years”.

Tendulkar says he was shocked by the approach and refused to be a party to it.

He further writes that Chappell’s reign was an unhappy one for the team and that he was a “ringmaster” who sought to force several senior players into retirement.

For his part Chappell has rigorously denied that he approached Tendulkar with the suggestion that he replace Dravid as skipper.

Nevertheless, this situation along with Tendulkar’s portrayal of Monkeygate, paints the little master in a very strong moral light.

One would rightly expect that as few autobiographers set out to damage their own reputation, and in Tendulkar’s case, that reputation especially among fellow Indians borders on religious reverence.

With respect to the Monkeygate Test Sachin wrote in depth about what he perceived was poor sportsmanship by the Australian team.

And he has every right to express what he believes is the true account of how things unfolded.

But, that being the case, should he not also apply the same rigid scrutiny to other issues that perhaps paint teams he played in in an unsavoury light?

Whilst Monkeygate was certainly a volcanic period in Tendulkar’s legendary career perhaps the nadir came eight years earlier when his captain Mohammad Azharuddin was handed a life ban for his involvement in match-fixing.

‘Azhar’ admitted to fixing three ODI matches, something that many would see as being the greatest crime you can commit in sport.

He also was the man who introduced another subsequently disgraced international captain, South African Hansie Cronje, to illegal bookmakers.

Around the same time other teammates of Tendulkar – Ajay Jadeja and Ajay Sharma – were banned for their roles in rigging matches.

It was a period of immense shame for not only Indian cricket but the sport globally.

Yet, despite the momentous nature of that time, Tendulkar devotes a mere five lines to it in his memoir.

His comments on the 2013 IPL match-fixing controversy that saw Sreesanth – a man he played alongside in arguably his greatest triumph when he finally won the World cup in 2011 – received even less coverage than the Azharuddin saga.

Many would say that match-fixing and the tentacles of the illegal bookmakers are the biggest issue facing the sport today (the ICC has admitted as much this week with new measures it has brought in ahead of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in the New Year).

Surely, as one of the game’s most pre-eminent individuals, Tendulkar has a responsibility to be more expansive on the matter given he took part in matches that were rigged and played alongside men who were handed lengthy bans.

Nowhere in his autobiography does he address questions such as his relationship with Azharuddin at the time; whether he ever harboured thoughts that things were amiss; the impact it had on the sport in India and the myriad fans; whether he was ever approached by gamblers or bookmakers, and if so, how did he handle it; whether he believes Indian cricket is now clean; or what needs to be done, in his opinion, to guard against match-fixing.

Yes, his book is primarily for local consumption, but Tendulkar’s standing in the sport surely demands that he gives episodes of extreme gravity an equal analysis.

Painting others as the baddies whilst largely glossing over issues of great import that may not sit well with his loyal local readership is abrogating his position as one of the most important figures in the history of the sport.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on November 2014