Sporting autobiographies by their very nature are meant to be an exploration of the sportspersons’ highs, their struggles and their inner thought process that leads them to overcome the challenges to success. However, more often than not, it serves as a stage for settling scores and as readers, those are often the salacious details that get “leaked” and pique our interests. And in this twitter age of instant gratification, it was indeed no surprise that autobiographies of the sportsmen who graced the biggest games caused a fairly big stir. Each of these autobiographies had things quite going for it and the personalities to make you look forward to. Roy Keane, notorious for being outspoken no matter the situation and quite irreplaceable to this day in the hearts and minds of Manchester United fans. Kevin Petersen, enfant terrible or misunderstood genius depending on which side of the cricketing divide you stood. Sachin Tendulkar for well, being Sachin Tendulkar; Cricket’s favored child. Below are my thoughts on how each of them compare and what really worked as a reader going through them
Inarguably, the one guaranteed to draw the most eyeballs especially in light of the acrimonious split between ECB and KP, this one lives up to its expectation. KP does not draw his punches and boy o boy, he sure as hell has a mighty go at all the injustice he has faced, perceived or otherwise. KP is fairly consistent in his praise towards all those who make him feel special and withering in his condemnation of those who cannot understand or give him special consideration. Reading through the autobiography, a few things stick through – the love for IPL (and no matter how much he professes otherwise, the money and glamor associated with it), the hectic non-stop travel in the life of the modern day sportsman, the loneliness and alienation of being away from the family and the clear sense of how much KP is different (in both a good and a bad way) from his teammates. As a score settling book, this is phenomenal. No one is spared from the ECB hierarchies to his coaches to his captains. There are sections of the book dealing with how he prepared and this thought process when taking on some of the best bowlers in producing defining knocks. There are also portions of the books for the other extreme when KP couldn’t even buy a run. There are discussions on the mindset needed, the butterflies in the stomach, the red bull run but really what comes at the end of the book is the constant (almost pathetic) need to be special and to be admired, loved, acknowledged and respected. There is a sense of bitterness permeating the book and frankly not too much of cricket. KP seems to be convincing not just the readers but himself as well that he deserves to be among the greatest players to have played the game despite how it ended.
Rating: 7/ 10 – Pluses for honesty and openness, Minuses for being bitter and whining
The one thing that you are assured when you pick up Keane’s book is that he will be brutal in his assessment about anything, himself including and he does not disappoint. This being an autobiography focusing more on the 2nd half of his career – last few years for United and his managerial career; the hits (all pun included) keep on coming. There is no cow sacred enough for Keane not to touch but at the same time, the grudging admiration that he professes for some of this opponents is quite admirable. Keane was no Mr. Nice Guy in his playing days and that is reflected here, right from his first chapter where he deals with the Alf-Inge Haland stamp. There is absolutely no sympathy for those he sees as slackers and not committed enough. Dealing with old age and injuries form a chunk of his declining abilities as a player and how he goes about dealing with it (Hint: Not so well). What is quite interesting is how the same qualities that were his strengths as a player carry over when he becomes a manager and how the effect is remarkably different. Keane is fairly self-critical but unapologetic of who he is and how he deals with things. While as a manager, there is a sense of mellowing but the Irish temper still finds its way out. There are vague glimmerings of a reconciliation attempt towards Sir Alex Ferguson but it still feels very early days. Keane has never really forgiven Sir Alex for what is an apparent betrayal. He also does not harbor the same feelings towards the class of ’92 and does not hesitate to let things go by. What really comes through the book is that of a hard, unflinching man but its tinged with regret and a sense of what-if. Its absorbing and Keane is rather accepting of blame and his own shortcomings
Rating: 9/10 – Pluses – delivers in spades what was promised, searing and brutal, Minuses – for glossing over some of his own mistakes especially his confrontation with Sir Alex
I would be lying if I said this wasn’t the most anticipated autobiography of the lot. Sachin the cricketer had an entirely uneventful non-controversial cricketing career. By saying the right word or by just being silent, the man steered himself through all political minefields adriotly and as a result, no one never knew where he stood on matters. If one hoped to get a better idea through the autobiography, be prepared to be disappointed. Apart from picking on some soft obvious targets, Sachin avoids any controversy. Reading more like a match report rather than an autobiography, this is a fairly pedestrian affair with exceptions being those chapters that deal with his family where his true feelings shine through. He remains quite conspicuous in his silence on match fixing, the match fixers, the spot fixing in IPL as well as cricket administrators while he goes with abandon after softer targets. Greg Chappell gets a fearful pillocking as does Rahul Dravid for his Multan declaration. He also has quite the go at the selectors for poor team selection when he was the captain. Another thing that comes across is Sachin taking credit for ideas that worked when others were captain. May be that really was the case but the sheer occurrence of those cases make it seem like there was no one else having bright ideas in the dressing room. The expressions of gratitude to all those who helped develop him, personally, cricket wise and money wise are profuse. There are descriptions of his fight from the various career threatening injuries and the low point he finds himself at. Some of these are quite harrowing and the struggle that a cricketer goes through on a daily basis to play even when he is not 100% fight is not evident when one sees on screen. Sachin as a foodie is a running theme and food features quite prominently be it loading up on salads when he did not have the means to friendly Indian families getting food for the Indian team in overseas conditions. Just in terms of a rather simple comparison, Sachin’s transition from playing local cricket in Mumbai to playing for India almost seems like a song in a Rajnikanth movie where he goes from pauper to prince instantly. The struggle for the 100th century and the constant reminders and expectations from one and sundry indicates the immense pressure that he came under
Rating: 5/10 – Overall disappointing and not really an autobiography but more of a match report. Not so well written by Boria Majumdar, hopefully this book was not so well written so that another biography can be published later with probably a truer account (earning a few crores more in a few years’ time)