A worthy possession

The A To Z of Sachin Tendulkar. By Gulu Ezekiel, UBS Publishers' Distributors Pvt. Ltd., 150 pages, Rs. 195.

GREAT players have so much written about them and yet, there is so much more to write about them. The fact that Gulu Ezekiel felt compelled to have a second innings with Sachin Tendulkar, after penning his popular biography Sachin: The story of the world's Greatest Cricketer, speaks volumes about the Little Master.

In The A To Z of Sachin Tendulkar, Gulu takes a close look at the person, a closer look at the player and a complete look at his statistics. This is Gulu's 10th book and he couldn't have asked for a more perfect 10!

Interestingly, the contents page has all the letters of the alphabets lined up. Quite appropriately, it begins with A for Abdul Qadir. After all, it was the leg-spinner who first faced the fury of the `Bombay Blaster' after openly challenging the youngster in a one-day game at Peshawar. The three consecutive sixes, a four and 27 runs in one over meant that the little Tendulkar had arrived on the big stage with a bang.

There is excitement all through the book, as the author takes us through Tendulkar's special knocks on the field and special relationships off it. In any book concerning Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar's presence is inevitable as they share so much in common.

Gavaskar had a major influence on Tendulkar even before the start of his career. When Tendulkar was disappointed at not winning the Bombay Cricket Association's best junior school award after some magnificent performances, Gavaskar wrote to him, saying: "Don't be disappointed at not getting the award. If you look at the award winners' list, you will find one name missing and that person has not done badly in Test cricket!" Gavaskar was obviously referring to himself, and at the same time encouraging Tendulkar to look ahead.

Another interesting story from Tendulkar's young days was his habit of sleep-walking. Ajit Tendulkar warned Sachin's first captain Lalchand Rajput about this. Poor Rajput kept awake the whole night and at 3 a.m. watched in horror as Tendulkar got up, unlocked the door and walked straight out!

Sachin as a batsman has given bowlers sleepless nights and ask Shane Warne, the worst sufferer of them all. Warne even confessed to having nightmares about "Sachin running down the wicket and belting me back over the head for six."

Though Tendulkar has won accolades from all quarters, the one from the South African fast bowler, `White Lightning' Allan Donald will count among the best.

Donald, who has had many engrossing battles with the Little Master, couldn't help exclaiming "good shot" when Tendulkar hit him for four during his century in the Princess Diana Memorial match at Lord's.

What made it special was the fact that it was the only time in his career that Donald had applauded a batsman's stroke!

While highlighting his achievements, Gulu has not failed to mention Tendulkar's misses too — not scoring a century in Zimbabwe after three tours there and failing to make a half-century/century in the Deodhar Trophy limited-overs tournament.

When the author says that Tendulkar's two dazzling centuries in successive matches at Sharjah in April 1998 helped India win the World Cup title, he probably wants him to win the World Cup for India in 2007 in the Caribbean and showcase his career with the most glittering trophy in world cricket!

For the statistically-minded, this book contains a wealth of information, covering Tendulkar's records in all the grounds across the world. There is also an exhaustive list of his Man of the Match awards in Tests and one-dayers, his captaincy record and various other interesting facts. For instance, did you know that, after Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie (6 times each), it is Hansie Cronje who has dismissed Tendulkar the most number of times?

Gulu's A-Z is a worthy possession. Millions of Sachin Tendulkar fans, who regard him as the God of Indian cricket, will be delighted with this latest offering.

— R. Narayanan