Master Laster; What They Don’t Tell You About Sachin Tendulkar
Rs. 299, PP206
While the entire world is celebrating Sachin Tendulkar’s lasting impact, Sumit Chakraberty’s book, “Master Laster — What they don’t tell you about Sachin Tendulkar”, deviates from the flavour of the day.
There have been Sachin critics who have, in hushed tones, questioned his match-winning abilities and his place in the team especially after the 1990s and the early noughties, and Chakraberty has suddenly decided to put all of that in print. Some of the things the author mentions, like the decline in Sachin’s effectiveness due to tennis elbow or how he became conservative in strokeplay due to age and injuries in the second half of his career, thereby prolonging his shelf life, make sense, but the author gets carried away, and on many occasions, runs down the maestro.
This is especially so when he describes Sachin’s masterful 98 in the 2003 World Cup against Pakistan as a one-off, claiming that one swallow doesn’t make a summer. He also questions the impact of Sachin’s performances across all World Cups forgetting that cricket remains a team game and that things could have been worse were it not for him. Chakraberty also forgets that in many games, Tendulkar’s small contributions did make a huge difference.
The author simply isolates Tendulkar’s performances and statistics from what’s happening around him. In the 1990s and before it became a powerhouse in the noughties, Indian cricket had to struggle with match-fixing, which was eventually exposed in 2000, and even shaky playing line-ups. The team was also yet to benefit from quality scientific coaching. Tendulkar was a rare positive for Indian sports at a time when India was opening up to the world.
Then, in the appendix, Chakraberty poses questions based on plain statistics to prove that Sachin is a ‘failure’. He picks only Sachin’s last five one-day tons to prove his lack of effectiveness, and also compares the percentage of his score in the team total to that of Lara. Lara had to have a higher percentage because other West Indies batsmen weren’t scoring at all while India always had good batsmen.
Above all, the writer fails to touch on the fact that the ‘Tendulkar phenomenon’ cannot be based solely on statistics. His following and the brand that built around him took cricket to unprecedented levels, thanks to which the Board’s coffers are overflowing with money. Yes, there were other stars like Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag and Azhar (before the scandal), but Sachin has remained head and shoulders above all, as the brand ambassador of the game. The proof of this was seen in Kolkata last week. The moment Sachin got out, fans trickled out.
The author has been far too critical about Sachin Tendulkar’s recent performances, like the one in the last five ODIs, and has missed out on the fact that his presence in the dressing room or in the line-up was needed to guide youngsters and provide a sobering effect especially when all the players from the golden generation left around the same time. Most of all, this book has come out at an inopportune time i.e when Sachin’s celebrated career is ending and his stardom is being revisited from every angle. Still, it is interesting that amidst all the pro-Tendulkar articles and columns, something has also been written against him.