I see your outrage about my book and I feel amused, because I know that most of you have not read it. If you had, then you would not be making the simplistic assumptions that you are making about it in public forums. By the way, can you tell me the page numbers where I made those iconoclastic remarks about Sachin and Rahul?
The problem is that India has a tradition of rigid hero worshipping and banning books which when put together create a lethal overdose of emotional anger that in its origin is completely fact-free. In order to get rid of this pathological condition, I recommend two things — firstly, accept the assumption that all your heroes don’t need to be immaculately perfect, and secondly, you should withhold your judgment about a book till you read and reflect objectively on it.
Look at the list of banned books in India today — Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Peter Heehs’s biography of Sri Aurobindo, Hamish McDonald’s The Polyester Prince, an unofficial biography of Dhirubhai Ambani, Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja, and recently Joseph Lelyveld’s book on Mahatma Gandhi, Great Soul. Mr Narendra Modi, the much-hailed chief minister of Gujarat, recently banned Levyland’s books without even viewing its cover.
There is nothing stopping you to be critical, sceptical and cynical, but try not to be apocryphal.
Now coming to the core issue, which caused this uproar and your un-informed beef with my book, I have never said Sachin and Rahul were not great cricketers; they are, and in my book I have repeatedly mentioned my respect for their longevity and records making consistency.
But what I also said is that Sachin is not a match-winner, which I am sure many of you also would agree if you agree to see glaring facts. Just because this is coming from the “controversial” Shoaib Akhtar, does not mean you have to put on blinders. And who knew better than me how much Sachin used to be scared of my deliveries during my prime? Look at his record with me between 1998-2003.
Even in the 2003 World Cup, where he scored a 95 runs against Pakistan, he was very scratchy, both of his sixes off my overs came through lucky thick edges on the cover drive area. Please review them carefully.
Even before my book, Sachin’s lack of match-winning abilities for India is well documented, read this factual compilation posted way back in 2009, even before my book was even conceived. To clarify further, I was referring to Dravid in his one-day avatar and I believe he has won and saved many matches for India in Test cricket and I acknowledge that unequivocally in my book. I was way more critical about Sachin though, because when I evaluate Sachin in the context of his team — and not in isolation as Sachin the individual — I find him lacking in greatness.
Cricket is a team game, and thus one should be benchmarked on his contribution to the team. And in that criteria, Lara, Richards, Sobers, and even Sehwag fare way better than Sachin. The problem with you guys is that you have a tendency to isolate the individual from the larger context of his environment while assessing him individually. This is true in every walk of your lives. Take the example your Prime Minister, who is individually incorruptible, but in the context of his administration, he is very corrupt.
What is the point of being an individual juggernaut while a flop at the team level? No nation can prosper on shoulders of such heroes. India became the cricket world champion not because of Sachin but because of the arrival of team players such as Dhoni, Raina, Kohli. Have you ever questioned why Sachin had retired from the national T-20 Team four years ago on moral grounds while continuing playing the same format in the IPL for Mumbai Indians?
This inherent hypocrisy behind your hero-worship is wrong for an emerging and confident nation. India is becoming to cricket what Europe is to football. So, all you fans and spectators need to re-examine the formulas behind your support. You can call me controversial, reckless and irresponsible, but never can you deny my credentials as a team player. I cared less about my personal records, but still I will be known as a formidable bowler of my times.
On the other hand, just compare the personal records that Sachin and Rahul have amassed during their tenures in Indian team with that of Team India’s, and you will clearly see the discrepancy there. Vivian Richards is a legend because his presence contributed to the rise of his team and his absence caused its gradual downfall.
Can you say the same about Sachin and Dravid? A true hero never abandons his family (team) for his own personal consumption, you got to look for such heroes and celebrate them instead of assailing my book without reading it.