It seemed that Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement was becoming the end point for authors to churn out pages, but Soumya Bhattacharya has bravely travelled the other way. Taking Tendulkar’s final Test match as the prelude, he has narrated Indian cricket’s immediate future in the absence of the man who was its only constant for 24 years in his book After Tendulkar – The New Stars of Indian Cricket.
The volume essentially documents on-field events related to Indian cricket between November 2013 and September 2014. If you have followed the team closely during this stretch, the work may not match your expectations since it does not add anything extra to what transpired. But for newcomers and those who might have missed out on the developments after Tendulkar’s exit, it is a good start to catch up with events.
The book summarises each of India’s series during this period except for the Bangladesh tour, and profiles the key performers and those who, in the author’s opinion, are to carry the baton forward in the next decade.
Having been in the stands at the Eden Gardens and at the Wankhede Stadium for a ringside view of Tendulkar’s hastily arranged farewell series against West Indies, Bhattacharya has observed the peripheral incidents around one of Indian cricket’s biggest send-offs to succinctly convey how the crowd’s unconditional acceptance of Tendulkar underwrote the insipid cricket produced in what was eventually only six days of Test cricket – both matches finishing in three days each.
The scene then shifts to the back-to-back tours of South Africa and New Zealand where the post-golden generation Indian team left a strong impression even without a single victory. India’s Asia Cup defeat under Virat Kohli, a post-mortem of the team’s performance in the 2014 World Twenty20, the high of Lord’s Test win followed by the three abject losses against England, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s unimaginative captaincy in overseas Tests, India’s first bilateral One-Day International series win in England in 24 years, and everything in between has been discussed without a fault.
There is no dearth of passion in Bhattacharya’s extensive research, but with every single match and issue discussed in detail, the reader is bound to be suffocated by an overdose of information that fits more into the daily reporting template than that of a book. With the plot fixed to a timeframe as short as 11 months, the scope to view the recently completed events with a depth of perspective is also limited. Moreover, the flow is stilted in places, reciting facts without adding insight.
Could the book been better off had Bhattacharya expanded his scope to comparing two different eras on either side of Tendulkar’s career? Could he have waited a bit more, maybe till the end of the 2015 World Cup, to spot a pattern and then penned down his thoughts? Could he have gathered more first-hand information about players rather than limiting it to just a few quotes from experts in over 200 pages?
These are some questions that crop up while reading the book, and in places the author seems stretched to fill up pages. There are also some factual errors that are glaring.
Bhattacharya quotes Dhoni from an old interview saying that he only watched Tendulkar bat in the 2007 World Cup. It was actually the 2003 edition in South Africa. Arvind Pujara, Cheteshwar’s father, played first-class cricket for Saurashtra, not Railways. Virat Kohli scored his maiden Test century in Adelaide in January 2012, not 2011. Rohit Sharma made his international debut against Ireland in June 2007, not in the ensuing World Twenty20 that India won. New Zealand did not bomb England in the first match of the two-Test series in 2013, they lost by 170 runs. And, Ian Bell made 167, not 160, against India in the 2014 Southampton Test.
However, credit is due to Bhattacharya’s sincere effort and to the publisher for being cheeky enough to use Tendulkar in the title and cover picture, but remain futuristic with the content. With time, as Bhattacharya’s period of research becomes a historical reference point for Indian cricket after Tendulkar, the book could come to be valued more.
After Tendulkar – The New Stars of Indian Cricket by Soumya Bhattacharya
217 p, Rs 495/-