Like the high expectations I had, every time he came to out to bat, I also had high expectations when Sachin announced that he would come out with his autobiography. But unlike with his batting, where he lived up to the expectations of millions like me, he definitely fails to do the same with his book. For me a good autobiography should give me insights on the person’s character and life. And, if it is a sportsman’s autobiography, a bit of inspiration too. Also, I expect to have improved level of understanding of the sport after reading a sportsman’s autobiography. And for me, Playing it My Way fails on all these accounts.
Unlike Steve Waugh’s Out of my Comfort Zone which gives lot of insight about Waugh as a person and also on the game of cricket- sometimes to an extent of being redundant- , Playing It My Way does not tell anything new about Sachin or the game. Wait, it actually does tell two things.
One is his memory and ability to recount completely irrelevant anecdotes. There are several places where I was hoping about good insightful anecdotes but I was always found wanting. There are only few places where Sachin has voiced his opinion. One, on the Greg Chappell episode and the other on his frame of mind after Rahul Dravid denied him a double hundred in Multan. He also describes the Sydney Monkeygate episode at length but do not reveal any details of the dressing room environment after the issue. He is also reserved about the match fixing saga and several other issues like Kapil Dev as a coach or ball tempering case. There is hardly any interesting anecdote about the dressing room or his team mates. If I have to summarise the insights and anecdotes in one word, they are bromide.
The other thing which the book tells about Sachin is his romantic side. A complete chapter has been devoted to his courtship period with Anjali, and that perhaps is the most insightful chapter. It is just that kind of sportsperson’s book.
And for the inspiration part, I think we all have started to expect a lot on this front after reading Lance Armstrong’s autobiography (If you have not read it, read it right away). An autobiography lives much longer than the person and so it is expected to be timeless when it comes to motivate the reader. To be fair, Sachin the person, when he was playing, has motivated perhaps two generations of the Indian population but his book surely is insipid in that regard.
What further makes the autobiography an average read is the fact that book is illustrated like a chronological record of Sachin’s matches. And even these illustrations are selective, with his success getting much more mentions than the failures.