This will be the first World Cup in over two decades without Sachin Tendulkar. The event Down Under will be the biggest stage yet for the current generation of Indian cricketers, including Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan — the very bunch that Soumya Bhattacharya, novelist and editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai, writes about in his latest book, After Tendulkar: The New Stars of Indian Cricket.
Discussing the book with senior journalist Ayaz Memon during a literary event at the HT Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Bhattacharya called Tendulkar — who retired in front of his home crowd in 2013 — Indian cricket’s first global brand. Without him, Bhattacharya added, the likes of MS Dhoni and Kohli wouldn’t be earning what they do in endorsements.
“Tendulkar dominated India’s consciousness more than any other person has in the modern era. And at least in cricket-playing countries he has emerged as the figure people identify with India. It is like Pele and Brazil,” Bhattacharya said.
The author recounted an incident that he said first illustrated to him how Tendulkar had captured the imagination of the world, just four years after his debut as a 16-year-old in Pakistan, in 1989.
“It was 1993 and, as a student in London, I had gone to cover the Kasparov – Short World Chess Championship. There, writing for one of the Sunday newspapers, was one of England’s pre-eminent novelists, Martin Amis. I walked up to him and introduced myself, and the first thing he asked me was how Tendulkar pronounced his name,” Bhattacharya recalled.
Bhattacharya and Memon discussed the transition in Indian cricket and the ups and downs of the team’s recent tour of Australia.
“We lost 0-2. Considering that England were blanked 0-5 last year and 0-4 for India the last time they toured Australia, it is not a bad result. We could have won the first Test in Adelaide,” said Bhattacharya.
Discussing Cheteshwar Pujara’s slump in form, Memon said it was very difficult to pinpoint exactly what was behind it.
“Cricket is not only played in the centre, it is also played in the mind. That could be the issue,” he added.
On being asked about whether he enjoyed writing in a particular genre — fiction, memoir, narrative non-fiction — Bhattacharya quoted the American novelist James Baldwin: ‘No genre is easier than the other. Each one kicks your ass.’