Millennium Post

Not Cardus’ kind of book

While the newspapers’ entertainment pages compete on which star’s film clashed with release of which star, we missed on a possible story on the clash of release of two books last week. I am not sure whether this story could have made it to the entertainment pages but certainly for a reporter it was intriguing whether the two publishing majors- Hodder & Stoughton, who have published Sachin Tendulkar biography and Penguin, who published Rajdeep Sardesai’s book on politics- itched for the clash of release.

It’s not easy for a multi-tasking reporter like your’s truly to come out with a review of a thick book at the instant, as some of the professional book reviewers manage to. In fact I take some time before starting to read a book and take much longer to finish it. I ordinarily have to convince myself into reading a book as I have to buy them and they do not come any cheap. Despite being in journalism for 20 years, I have not yet been fortunate enough to have my name on the list of any publisher for book reviews.

Last time that I bought a series of books going by the market trend was the Meluha trilogy by Amish Tripathi and then greatly regretted why I ordered for the last volume. But then I have enjoyed  buying and reading William Dalrymple’s books on Delhi. Some may raise eyebrows for buying the books so late, but what to do? As I mentioned earlier I am a late buyer and a slow reader. Having given the prologue, let me come to the main text. I don’t see myself buying Sachin Tendulkar’s Playing it My Way: My Autobiography. First it is pretty costly priced at Rs 899 and second its promos don’t suggest of a book having much on cricket. The chances of reading the book even if it was to be gifted to me are remote as why should I waste my time reading on the shenanigans inside the dressing room of the Indian cricket team?

Not that I do not enjoy reading cricket but then I enjoy reading just cricket and cricketing feats of the cricketers. In fact I would rush to the only decent bookshop in Bhagalpur in my younger days to get myself Sunil Gavaskar’s latest release. When I checked the other day, to my satisfaction I still have Sunny Days, Idols, Runs and Ruins and One Day Wonders with me. These were books on cricket and not on the coaching feats of one gentleman called Mr Greg Chappell, who brought great disrepute to Indian cricket.

About a year back in these very columns I had bemoaned how  the cricket being played in the IPL had extinguished the legacy of Neville Cardus.  I was reminded of Cardus then, during an evening meeting in the newsroom of Millennium Post, we wondered reporting on Indian Premier League (IPL), affiliated to the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), was whose baby- the sports desk or the crime bureau? Going by the previews and discussions on Sachin Tendulkar’s book, I had the same dilemma, whether excerpts from the book should find a place on the sports page or the entertainment page.

Cardus’ writings and some of his match reports were even prescribed in the grammar and public school texts. They provided rare insight to the budding cricketers on how to improve their technique. His writings on Bodyline series between England and Australia in 1933 were a master piece, where he had defended Donald Bradman, who was reduced to be an ordinary batsman during the  course of the series by the English pace attack which bowled on the leg stump with a packed leg side field.

Cardus wrote, ‘Bradman is reported to have fallen from grace because his average has fallen. His stroke play has plainly been dazzling. Yet such is the modern conception of batsmanship, that a cricketer is supposed to be playing badly if he takes a chance and cracks the ball in the manner of JT Tyldesley (John Thomas Tyldesley was an English cricketer who played first-class cricket for Lancashire and Test cricket for England). Bradman was the only Australian, I gather, really to counter-attack (Harold) Larwood. He moved away to the leg-side and hit the ball audaciously to the unprotected off-side. As a consequence of this piece of superb resource, even his best friends accuse him of recklessness; indeed they say he ‘ran away’.But how on earth is any batsman going to tackle fast leg-side bowling (to a crowded leg-trap) unless he hits it to the off? And how can you hit leg side bowling to the off-side unless you move away and get on the proper side of it for the stroke? Against Larwood, Bradman was beginning to reveal his genius in a more gallant light than it has ever been seen before: given a few more innings, he might have mastered it. And for all his pains and imagination he is called ‘reckless’.’

Could there have been a better prescription for batsmen who were trying to find an answer to Douglas Jardine’s pack of pace men led by Harold Larwood? I am not sure whether Sachin in his book has provided any insight to the budding cricketers on how he took on the might of some of the greatest bowlers of his time both pacers and spinners. If he has not, what use is this book than being another marketing exercise at raising some more moolah by the man who has already made much, has been felicitated much but has not reciprocated much.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post
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