Friendships, Controversies: What ‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’ Missed
What could not be covered in ‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’ can probably be covered in a cinematic venture later on.
How do you look back at a film that you have lived through yourself? That’s the difficult part of looking back at the Sachin Tendulkar movie, which releases on Friday.
The movie is as much a journey of his career as his life, which has been part of every one of us.
Life events are referenced using Tendulkar’s career as a touch point. So you always feel that there was something that was missed out, much like in the Mahendra Singh Dhoni biopic. Both films use the 2011 World Cup win as the ultimate goal, but the Tendulkar story is much bigger and has a wider canvas than the Dhoni biography.
Hence when a Tendulkar story shows up, you expect it to be about a lot of things that we have never heard his views on.
No First Test 100, No First ODI 100?
The movie starts off using great archival footage featuring interviews of Tendulkar when he was chosen for the Pakistan tour in 1989. Thankfully, Doordarshan did not tape over his interviews.
Then the part about his India career in the movie kicks in. We just race through the disastrous phase of 1990-1992. India lost everything, but Tendulkar was emerging as a bright light.
The movie then again zips through from 1993-1996 when he actually played for the first time in India, with just passing mentions about his achievements in the phase.
In fact, there is a factual error in this part, when it is said that the BCCI awarded its TV rights for the first time to ESPN in 1993, when it was actually rewarded to Trans World International (TWI), a production company. ESPN did not begin broadcast in India till October 1995!
The 1993-1996 phase also featured his first Test hundred in India and his first-ever ODI hundred. But sadly these aspects were not even shown. We really don’t know how his elevation to the opener’s slot in ODIs helped him evolve his game in the 50-over format.
His obsession with World Cups is quite evident with 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007 World Cups featuring majorly throughout the movie. For a man who rates Test cricket as the ultimate format, obsessive love for the 50-over World Cups does leave a cricket fan confused.
The 1996 World Cup semi-final loss was well documented, as also the defeat in the 1997 Barbados Test under his captaincy. It was perhaps for the first time, in a movie backed and starring Tendulkar, that there was an actual reference to a power struggle with Mohammed Azharuddin in the 1996-97.
What About the 1998-99 Chennai Test?
Captaincy changed hands between Tendulkar and Azhar in that phase. The Harsha Bhogle voice-over does refer to the emergence of two power centres in Tendulkar and Azhar.
Tendulkar also admits for once that he was not spoken to when he was sacked as captain in 1997-98, but there is nothing more to it from him.
The next big phase of his career was when he played like a man possessed against Pakistan in the famous 1998-99 Chennai Test.
There is but a passing reference to that famous Test, when the whole country grieved with him as he battled a varied Pakistan attack and a bad back. Sadly, this gets no more than a passing mention.
When he resigned from captaincy in 1999-2000, there was a lot of talk about the Azhar equation playing a part in his decision. Tendulkar missed probably his final chance to set the record straight on that issue.
Azhar had been kept out of the side that whole season in 1999-2000 and when he did return, Tendulkar resigned. Now, could this record not have been set straight?
Thankfully, unlike his book, Tendulkar does bring up the match-fixing scandal of 2000 in the movie. But it is disappointing that he claims he has no proof of close teammates of over a decade being implicated and banned. We still don’t know what he actually felt about what an Azhar, Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar were alleged to have done. Now, we will probably never know!
Missing Personal Equations
The shift in Indian cricket from 2000 onward is well documented. But his personal equations with Sourav Ganguly (his oldest ODI opening partner), Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are not looked at closely.
Together, this quartet held the Indian batting together for more than 15 years. But we do not get to see even a glimpse bout how they gelled together, their highs and lows.
It is hardly a surprise when his childhood friend Vinod Kambli gets just a customary mention owing to their school cricket exploits. Who does get featured immensely is former Indian coach Greg Chappell, who, like in the autobiography, is the villain of the piece.
There is no talk about why he chose to miss the inaugural World Twenty20 and India’s eventual triumph. But then in the same vein, neither is there any reference to India’s rise to number one Test status in 2009 or the overseas Test wins in the early 2000s.
There is also no reference to what happened after the 2011 World Cup win. India lost eight successive Tests in England and Australia, which was probably the biggest low that Tendulkar & Co had been part of.
In a country obsessed with cricket in coloured clothing, Tendulkar’s words on the lows right after the mega high would have counted for a lot.
It is understandable that in a 24-year career there are many moments that could have been packed into a movie.
But there were some which were obvious misses – hopefully, these can be covered in a cinematic venture with passage of time.
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