Two very different conversations with two close friends, both of whom are much revered national icons. The first with Sachin Tendulkar a few days after India had won the World Cup in April, 2011. We were taking stock of a career unrivalled and Sachin was recounting some of his highest points. Inevitably, the 1992 Australia tour featured in it. This is what he had to say, “Dada (Sourav) and I were roommates in Sydney and a little past midnight on the eve of the SCG Test I was doing a bit of shadow practice, trying to plan how to play the Australian bowlers the next day. Dada got up and was taken aback to see me up that late at night. He asked me to go to sleep for I had to bat the next day.” (‘Playing It My Way’ wins prestigious award, named Book of the Year)And here’s Sourav on the same incident. “I wasn’t playing the match and was startled to see Sachin shadow batting at 1AM in the morning. It was crazy. I couldn’t sleep either and remember telling him that he should go to bed for he needed all the energy in the middle the next day against an Australian bowling attack which included Craig McDermott, Bruce Reid and Mike Whitney.”Playing It My Way has won the Crossword Book of the Year Award in Autobiography category.The story doesn’t end there. With little sleep the night before, Sachin was understandably tired the next day. And to catch up on some sleep while India was batting he did something that only he can. “I said to Dada that I was taking a nap on the dining table in the SCG dressing room and he should wake me up in some time. I managed a good 45-minute nap. It wasn’t the only time I did so in my career.”advertisementSourav – “He actually slept on the dining table for some time and when the next wicket fell I woke him up. When it was his turn to bat he scored a majestic 148, his first hundred against Australia in Australia. Clearly we were seeing a genius in our midst.”There is a book here isn’t it? How can these stories not be written up for millions for fans to savour? How can Sachin, a treasure trove of such stories, not open up to tell us his story in his own words? Playing it My Way was waiting to be written.After many hours of trying to emphasize the seriousness of the project, Sachin, the obsessive perfectionist, was ready. He agreed that the book would be his legacy a 100 years down the line and also realised that we couldn’t wait to start after he had called it a day. Doing so would mean we would lose valuable time and it wasn’t the best idea. Documenting a two and a half decade long cricketing life was a mammoth project and to do it well we needed substantial time. An immediate start was a necessity.Many a mock session was conducted in his 19A Perry Cross Road Bungalow in West Bandra discussing the structure and work flow before we were both convinced that we were ready to get off the blocks. Anjali and Ajit joined in some of these sessions and that helped a great deal. Each of them helped Sachin on the way and in no time confidentiality agreements were signed and it was decided that we’d select themes and record a particular incident or episode in one particular session. I had to tell him a day or two in advance what the theme was for the next session to get him up to speed with his thoughts. His ability to remember things in real detail helped and it was mutually agreed that we’d not do anything in a hurry. It had to be a Test match innings and not a T20 slog.The first session lasted a little more than three hours. As with many more in the future, it started with Sachin ordering some delicious pasta for us both and going over the structure one more time. On Day one we talked about the 2011 World Cup, the highest point in his career and something that was still very fresh in his mind. It was important for Sachin to get used to the routine. He hadn’t batted on a literary pitch before and it was natural he’d take some time to warm up. The World Cup was an easy start and something he loves to talk about. As it happened, in the very first session itself I learnt things which I had no knowledge off despite having covered the World Cup to the best of my ability. Here’s a sample:advertisementOn returning to the hotel at the end of the World Cup final, Sachin and Anjali had put flowers in their ear and danced to loud Bollywood music in the confines of their room at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, something they had never done in their lives. All inhibitions had been shed for it was a night like no other.Thereafter, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh had sung Tujme Rab Dikta Hain Yaara Main Kya Karoon, a very popular number at the time, much to the embarrassment of the master.The book had started with a beautiful cover drive for four.Since then it took us a little more than three years to put the thing together. More than 130 hours of interviews, traveling all over the world fitting in sessions wherever we could and whenever Sachin had the time amidst his cricketing commitments, multiple drafts and many edits down the line we finally had Playing it My Way.
English police have renewed their appeal for two men, who could be ‘key witnesses’ to the incident that has placed talismanic England all-rounder Ben Stokes’ place in the Ashes tour in jeopardy.Stokes was withdrawn from the Ashes squad by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in the wake of pending investigation into the incident that led to his arrest in Bristol on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm. Hales was with Stokes at that time.The 26-year-old Durham all-rounder was released without charge but remains under police investigation.Hales, who was also with Stokes during the incident that took place outside Mbargo nightclub in the Clifton area of Bristol in the early hours of September 25, has also been made unavailable for selection by the ECB.Hales’ lawyer, however, had said last week that he would be “surprised” if he faced further action.Last week, Stokes’ agent Neil Fairbrother had said that the all-rounder would give a full explanation of his action “when the time is right”.According to ESPNcricinfo, Stokes had claimed to both the police and to the ECB in their internal investigation that he was coming to the aid of two men who had been subjected to homophobic abuse prior to the incident.Following a previous appeal on September 28 for two key witnesses to come forward, Somerset and Avon Police have launched a fresh appeal into the matter.”One of the men is described as white, of slim build, 5ft 9in tall and aged in his early 20s. He had short dark brown hair, was clean shaven and wore a white T-shirt with a sleeveless jumper, jeans and trainers,” the police said in a statement.advertisement”The second man is also white, 5ft 9in tall and aged in his early 20s but is of a slightly larger build. He had short light brown hair, was also clean shaven and wore a long-sleeved round neck T-shirt, dark/black skinny jeans and trainers,” the statement continued.In Stokes’ absence, Steven Finn was roped into the squad as Stokes’ replacement for the full five-match Test series.The much-awaited Ashes series will begin at the Gabba in Brisbane on November 23.