Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
In India, cricket and Sachin Tendulkar are synonymous. I am not a fan but Dilip D’Souza’s book ‘Final Test – Exit Sachin Tendulkar’ made for an interesting read. The author, a cricket and Sachin fan attended the last cricket match the legend played before retiring from the game.
Ostensibly, the book is about that one day. From the struggle to get tickets for the match, the frenzy in the stands among fans who were going to witness Sachin make an exit from the game he has played for years, the advertisers who cashed in on the occasion , the use of social media to engage fans at the stadium to the abundance of politicians and officials who wanted to be present when Sachin took a final bow, Dilip D’Souza captures the day well.
As the author says, that match could easily have been called Tendulkar vs West Indies, because no one cared about anyone else that day.
Yet, the book is so much more than that final day. Each chapter begins with a quote from a famous sportsperson and through out the book are little gems of information – on why the teams break for lunch at 11.30 am and tea at 2 pm ; why West Indian cricketers play so many other leagues, why it is important to judge the quality of the pitch and why a win of the toss matters, why the angle of the ball delivery and the bat are of utmost importance and even why Ranji Trophy seems to be dying a slow death and the rise of BCCI and how that will shape cricket in the years to come ? The author presents a commentary on many other stalwarts of the game, their personal and the collective fortunes.
Dilip D’Souza has the courage that few other writers and commentators on cricket have. Gently he tries to make meaning of why a person was made larger than the game and why rules were bent to accommodate Sachin’s preferences on how he wanted to exit cricket? Would stalwarts like Ganguly and Dravid who chose to exit without fanfare want something like this? Why was a lack-lustre West Indies chosen as the opponent team? Why Wankhede Stadium should have a stand named after Bal Thackeray whose followers desecrated the stadium because they did not want Pakistan to play there? Why Sachin’s fans went ballistic because Maria Sharapova did not know the cricketing legend?
Dilip D’Souza is also Sachin Tendulkar’s neighbor in Bandra, Mumbai and has a ringside view of the adulation the cricketer enjoys. Busloads of tourists stop at the house to take pictures of the legend, there is always someone from a small town or village who spends days outside Sachin’s house in the hope of seeing him, gifting him a little memento.
The author tries to decode the fascination for Sachin in the cricket crazy nation. Perhaps it was the advent of TV and the fact that everyone could see the magic of Sachin with their own eyes; it could also be that the cricketer conducted himself with humility in public view and never became arrogant with fame. A little far fetched perhaps but Sachin seemed incorruptible when all other idols, including Rajiv Gandhi developed feet of clay; in a country desperate for role models, Sachin seemed to fit the bill.
To write as a fan and an objective commentator on cricket requires restraint and dexterity. Dilip D’Souza exhibits both with quiet brilliance.
Read it – as a cricket and Sachin fan – or a non-fan; either way you won’t be disappointed.