Was it only a year ago that Sachin Tendulkar was thanking everybody and causing a nation to blubber in front of their television sets? Somehow, that seems farther off to me than the day he made his Test debut in Pakistan a quarter century ago. I was younger then, of course, but not as young as Sachin, who was 16 and taking on the likes of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis (also making his debut) and Abdul Qadir.
From facing a world-class attack on debut to taking on journeymen bowlers who seemed to be merely making up the numbers in his otherwise forgettable final Test, Sachin had moved a nation which had somehow placed him above all criticism. Dilip D’Souza’s book is a corrective to that uncritical acceptance.
It is not just an aid to memory, but places that final match and the tamasha around it in perspective. “So much about this Test,” he says, “has so little to do with cricket as a game, as a contest. In every way, this is a perversion of cricket.”
To put this in analogical perspective, imagine, says D’Souza, “Rafa Nadal announcing that he would soon retire. Imagine that he tells the tennis establishment that he would like to play his last match...at Roland Garros. Imagine that to fulfil Nadal’s wish, the French Open is turned into a Nadal-fest. Imagine that only players ranked outside the Top 100 are invited to participate. In other words, imagine we watch a tournament that is really crafted only to showcase Nadal.”
Final Test begins with a promise not to be so much about the match itself but something more interesting—a fan and serious writer’s digressions, comments, opinions on issues and personalities and quick sketches of other fans around him. In fact, these are the best parts of the book, but an over-reliance on Cricinfo and...