Sachin: a Billion Dreams

As if the life and times of Sachin Tendulkar weren’t prominent enough, the little master now has his own film, directed by James Erskine, out in cinemas now. The Cricket Blog was lucky enough to get invited along to an advance screening of the film.

I must admit that I was expecting the film to be comprised of near total sycophantic guff, although Erskine’s stellar work on Pantani: The Accicdental Death of a Cyclist filled me with optimism. It’s hard to quantify what Tendulkar means to India. This film carefully builds the profile of an icon and whilst yes, is sycophantic in part (this is Sachin, after all), is worth the time investment of cricket fans everywhere.

It is, for the most part, narrated by Tendulkar himself with behind the scenes footage from of the more intimate moments of his life. His Test debut against Pakistan when he stepped into the lions’ den of international cricket in the fiercest rivalry of them all, where he had his nose broken but understood the power of his actions even as a child; he really did look like a boy amongst men in that series.

His promotion and swift demotion from the captaincy and the impact this had on him – the spectre of Mohammad Azharuddin looming large over the young skipper. Although it is not explicitly stated, there was clearly friction between the two of them which lingered on until Tendulkar was recalled to the captaincy, seemingly against his will, a few years later. You’re left hoping that Tendulkar will stick the boot in now, but it is clear that Tendulkar does not wish to burn any bridges in retirement and he is a balanced enough and humble enough character to steer clear of doing so. But there were frequent tensions with senior players and the BCCI that affected his cricket at points. There’s probably enough there for another film entirely.

The multitude of world cup failures also hung over Tendulkar. The 2007 debacle garners as much cinematic attention here as does the triumphant 2011 edition. It was clearly the lowest ebb of Tendulkar’s career as he faced questions over his future, a creaking body and threats from members of the public.

The one thing that is clearly presented throughout is the impact Tendulkar had on his own family. Armed guards were present in their household after the 2007 World Cup and his family lived every low point with him and suffered nervously through the highs. His wife plays an instrumental role in the Tendulkar story and you can see Tendulkar’s pining for his son to be a successful cricketer shining through, too.

The other major familial theme of the Tendulkar story is his father. Tendulkar speaks of his calm and his control, two things Tendulkar brought to his cricket. His father’s passing was, like it is for most, a major juncture in his life. These are the components that you do not see in the footage of Tendulkar scoring run after run on TV.

The meticulousness of his preparation and his absolute devotion to cricket are enjoyable to see. This is a man obsessed with the game and all its finer details. He made his own pads and repaired his own bats. It made Tendulkar the player he was.

The film builds up to the 2011 World Cup, which of course India won on home soil. It was perhaps a shame for the film that they did. Everything that needed to be said about Tendulkar had already been said. Whilst it was clearly an obsession of Tendulkar’s, it doesn’t fit in as something that needed to happen. It was too perfect to appear believable in a film, but this isn’t a work of fiction.

Perhaps, however, this was the moment at which he should have retired.

It would have made a fitting finale and the film glosses over the two year struggle to reach that 100th international century, paying it lip service en route to the conclusion. A scrappy century achieved against Bangladesh in an Asia Cup game wasn’t the grand stage perhaps Tendulkar envisaged. That moment had passed.

Still, the film lays bare a man the likes of whom we will probably never see again. Upon leaving the cinema, my fellow blogger Andy Hunter remarked that he truly is a one off. A superstar who never got above himself. A humble middle class boy who grew into a humble middle class superstar with a reputation the envy of everyone in the game. He just wanted to score runs and win.

From interviews with Shane Warne, Brian Lara, Sir Don Bradman and Viv Richards, we see what this man achieved without ever bragging about it. His life story is told across two hours and 20 minutes and none of it feels farfetched. That is perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay the man and his film.

By Miles Reucroft

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