Sachin A Billion Dreams film review

You could sit Sachin Tendulkar down at a desk in front of a single camera, get him to read from the telephone book for six hours and it would be a box-office smash. Thankfully director James Erskine and the producers of “Sachin: A Billion Dreams” have more respect for both their subject and the filmgoing public in this entertaining 139 minute documentary on India’s most loved sportsperson and greatest cricketer.

For fans of Indian cricket and admirers of Sachin Tendulkar (the “billion” of the film’s title) there won’t be too many “I didn’t know that” moments as Sachin himself walks us through this authorised biopic. More a love letter than a true hagiography, the film begins with dramatised scenes from Sachin’s boyhood at seven and then eleven years of age, before embarking on a fairly linear account of his stellar 24-year career as international cricketer.

Interspersed with the match footage and the news clips we follow Sachin through his marriage to Anjali, the birth of his two children Sara and Arjun — the latter an aspiring batsman in his own right — and share the tragedy of the passing of his father while he was in England for the 1999 World Cup. We see Sachin the Dire Straits fan and Sachin the go-kart racer, yet the film doesn’t dig too deeply into his persona.

Alongside all the ups and ups of his career, there were some of the downsides: the two unsuccessful stints as Indian captain, the tetchy relationship with Mohammad Azharuddin and the match-fixing scandal that consumed the latter, and the huge national disappointment of India’s early exit from the 2007 World Cup.

Of the many teammates of Tendulkar’s who were interviewed for the film, Azharuddin was unsurprisingly absent. More of a surprise was the non-participation of his record-breaking batting partner from their Harris Shield schoolboy days right through to the Test arena, Vinod Kambli.

On the subject of the disastrous 2007 World Cup campaign, who would have imagined India’s then-coach Greg Chappell could come across on the big screen as such a hissable villain? Through footage borrowed from the documentary “Guru Greg”, he does here.

There are plenty of highlights from Tendulkar’s career on display in this film, a career that not only spanned India’s economic transformation but its cricket board’s rise to wealth and power as it learned to exploit the developing medium of satellite television.

The evolution of TV picture quality is on display as footage of Sachin’s 1989 Test debut is seen through grainy VHS tapes. But there was nothing substandard about the vision of India’s progress through the 2011 World Cup, the Final of which provides the climax to the film, tightly edited and thrillingly scored by AR Rahman, whose soundtrack is one of the highlights of this documentary. (No spoilers from me if you don’t know how the game finished up.)

The Indian Premier League, by the way, occupies less than a minute of this film — Twenty20 cricket is not, after all, a centrepiece of the Sachin Tendulkar story.

The emotional coda to the film comes with Tendulkar’s warm and dignified farewell speech at the conclusion of his 200th, and last, Test match in 2013.

In its first four days at the Indian box office, “Sachin: A Billion Dreams” has grossed 32.25 crore rupees, which is probably just as well if the reports of the BCCI’s asking price for use of match footage are true.

At two hours and nineteen minutes plus intermission, “Sachin: A Billion Dreams” never drags, although it probably does not warrant a place on the top shelf of sporting documentaries. A love letter to be sure, but a well-crafted one. It would likely have served well as a three-part TV series, which may well be its final destination for all we know.

In Australia it has been classified PG for “mild themes and coarse language”. I seem to recall Virat Kohli mumbling “shit” once.

For lovers of cricket, “Sachin: A Billion Dreams” is worthwhile, but as I was leaving the cinema, an elderly Indian lady said to me “I’m not a cricket person… but how good was that!” So take that as your recommendation.

Rating: 7/10.

2015: A year in cricket (or at least the start of it)

January 1, Kirribilli House, Sydney. Two of these three men still had their job at the end of the year:

Now we have the entire Australian eleven in shot. #AusvInd #Cricket

A photo posted by Rick Eyre (@rickeyre) on

While you sleep, I train. While you eat, I train. While you party, I train. February 21 is my goal!

A photo posted by Michael Clarke (@michaelclarkeofficial) on

Clarkie!

It almost seems like destiny for Michael Clarke to get a ton on Test debut, and that’s how it panned out. Great knock from a player who really should have been in the Test team a year ago. He’s a very mature 23 year-old, and congratulations to him.

I am sure we have seen the start of a fine Test career, and probably someone who will become Australian captain – I’ll stick my neck out and say he will succeed Ponting in the role.

Congrats also to Anil Kumble on reaching 400 Test wickets. Now onto Warnie to make that world record his own!

U19 World Cup: It’s not a breeze for everyone

If you thought the first week of the Under-19 World Cup was going to be boring, think again. There’s a very good chance that by Friday night, both the winner and runner-up of the 2002 competition might be finished for 2004. Continue reading “U19 World Cup: It’s not a breeze for everyone”

Cricket’s latest lolly scandal

Not since Marcus Trescothick spilled his minties at short extra cover in the Trent Bridge Test of 2001 has cricket seen a lolly scandal such as that which engulfed Rahul Dravid at The Gabba on Tuesday night. Continue reading “Cricket’s latest lolly scandal”

Steve Waugh’s last day at the office

Kumble bowls. Waugh sweeps. He lofts it high in the air. Tendulkar waits just inside the square leg rope and takes the catch. And it’s all over.

After 18 years, 168 Tests, 260 innings, 82 scores of fifty or better and 10,927 runs, Steve Waugh had played his last innings for Australia. He scored 80 and helped Australia draw the Fourth Test against India.

It’s not often that 27000 people cram the Sydney Cricket Ground to see a game peter out into a draw. But that’s not what they were there for. They were there to give a rousing, emotional farewell to one of the sport’s greatest modern legends, finally giving the international game away at the age of 38.

Not everything went the way the crowd, egged on to some extent by a hysterical local media, would have liked. Australia didn’t win the Test – they gave up 705 runs in the first innings and were fortunate to be spared the embarrassment of following on. They didn’t win the series – it finished 1-1 with India retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. And Waugh didn’t get a final hundred, though he came closer than should realistically have been expected on that amazing final day.

We’ve seen hyperactive scoring in the Test series in both Australia and South Africa in the past few weeks, and the final day in Sydney began with Australia 0/10 in their second innings, needing another 433 to win in 90 overs. An utterly unprecedented task at Test level, but the presence of such explosive batsmen as Hayden, Ponting and Gilchrist in the lineup meant that the dream was still not entirely unbelievable.

Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer played the first hour of the day as if victory was still within their sights. Hayden (30), however, fell to the first ball after the drinks break, driving a Kumble googly to Dravid at slip. Soon afterwards, Langer (47) lashed out to Murali Kartik, driving uppishly to Sehwag at long-off. At 2/92, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn started rolling down the shutters.

As the pair began blocking ball after ball, a crowd fed on four and a half days of overcharged batting began the slow hand claps. But when Martyn (40) popped a Kumble delivery to substitute fielder Yuvraj Singh at leg slip, the crowd immediately ignored the action on the field to stand and watch the players’ entrance, as Stephen Rodger Waugh took to the field.

He began slowly but patiently, waiting for the bad ball to put away to the off-side boundary. The partnership between the present and future captains ended when Ponting (47) hit a return catch to Irfan Pathan. Australia was 4/196 with 38 overs still to play.

Simon Katich, who has shared some outstanding partnerships with Waugh for New South Wales this season, played a confident, though not entirely chanceless innings, and the pair took the score to 4/322 with eight overs remaining – the point where the two captains could agree to call the game off if they wished. With Waugh on 69, Ganguly still going for a win, and a big crowd loving the action, they played on.

Waugh’s strokeplay became more loose as the crowd’s expectations rose that he might just have enough time to squeeze in one final century. No such luck, as he holed out to one of the more uncharacteristic shots of his career in the fifth-last over of the game. The partnership with Katich was worth 142.

We thought the draw might be called at that point, but instead Adam Gilchrist came to the crease. Three balls later, Gilchrist returned to the pavillion, the victim of a very scrappy stumping by Parthiv Patel, having played just one scoring shot for four. Kumble’s twelfth wicket for the match, it brought Jason Gillespie to the crease.

Ganguly was still gunning for the victory, and still taking an interminable amount of time over his field settings, but Katich took control of proceedings and the match ended with Australia on 6/357. In the end, they finished just 86 short. It’s not often that 347 runs are scored on the fifth day of a Test match, but the truth is that the pitch had not worn much at all. Only 25 wickets fell over the five days for 1757 runs.

Katich finished on 77 not out and unquestionably played the best innings of the day. He scored 202 runs for the match, but still well behind Tendulkar’s 301 (241* and 60*). Kumble took 12/279 to equal the most wickets taken in a Test at the SCG (8/141 and 4/139).

With a couple of thousand more spectators coming to the ground during Waugh’s innings, there was much emotion at the end of the day as the Australian captain said his farewells to the crowd and did a lap of honour hoisted on the shoulders of his team-mates. Curiously, among all the thanks he gave in his farewell speech, there was no acknowledgement of Ricky Ponting or the future. One other disappointment was that the Indian team left the field with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy without taking the chance to thank their many fans at the ground.

While this day and this moment belonged to Steve Waugh, the series was a memorable one for India. They couldn’t quite take the series, but a 1-1 away result was much better than many were expecting. Their bowling ranks are still brittle but the star batsmen performed, one after another. Ganguly led it off at the Gabba, Laxman was excellent at Adelaide and Sydney, Tendulkar came good with the highest score of his adult career after it seemed his form was deserting him. And Rahul Dravid scored 619 runs to be named Man of the Series.

Australia looked that little bit more mortal, and with due respect to them, that is good for the world game. They’ll find it tough in Sri Lanka in March, and even tougher when they meet India next in October. It’s a tough challenge for Ricky Ponting without a Waugh, let alone two, in his eleven. But he’s already a World Cup winner, and the future is his.

A Test on steroids

With one day remaining in the Sydney Test, Australia needs 433 runs to win with ten wickets in hand. It shouldn’t be possible. Shouldn’t.

But this Test – and indeed many Test matches lately – have been so unusual that it can’t be absolutely ruled out.

We’ve seen an exhilirating four days of batting at the SCG. Australia made 474 in their first innings, yet it wasn’t enough to avoid giving Indian captain Ganguly the option of enforcing the follow-on (which, as it happened, he elected not to do).

Alongside a dazzling innings by VVS Laxman, we’ve seen Sachin Tendulkar produce the highest score of his adult career, before going on to surpass 300 runs for the match. Quickfire centuries by Justin Langer and Simon Katich have been dwarfed by comparison, and lost in the media hype alongside the departing Steve Waugh’s tradesmanlike 40.

And in the midst of all this batting hyperactivity, we have had Anil Kumble taking 8/141 in the Australian first innings – the first eight-fer at the Sydney Cricket Ground since the 19th century! (Tom Richardson took 8/94 for England in March 1898 in the last Test of his career.)

A target of 433 in 90 overs on a fifth day wicket should be ludicrous, but we have seen so many powerful performances by this Australian battery over the past couple of years. The sentimentalists would have Steve Waugh playing a rearguard knock to win the game, or slightly more realistically, to draw it. It would be a shame, however, if Australia turned the match into a tame finish rather than go down in a kaleidoscopic heap.

If we’re looking for history on day five of this Sydney Test, we should keep an eye on Anil Kumble. No one else in this Indian side looks quite the match-winner in this situation, although nineteen year-old Irfan Pathan is clearly a player of the future. No one has taken thirteen wickets in a Test at the SCG. So far.

One passing point as we await the start of the final day of this quite breathtaking Test series. Has Sachin Tendulkar played his last Test innings on Australian soil? Amidst all the wildly excessive hysteria over Steve Waugh, is there another farewell that Sydney cricket fans are overlooking?

The curse of the retiring captains

It was nineteen years ago – January 1985 – when Clive Lloyd played his 110th and last Test, his 74th as captain, leading the West Indies against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground. A world-beating team at the peak of its form, the West Indies was expected to trounce Australia as they had done throughout that series, sending Lloyd out on a high. Instead, the Aussies won by an innings and 55 runs.

It’s now January 2004, the venue is again the Sydney Cricket Ground, and Steve Waugh is playing his 168th Test, already announced a couple of months ago as his last. It is his 57th as captain, of which he was won a staggering forty-one. The hype around Sydney has been incredible, with the first three days of the Test sold out in advance in anticipation of giving Waugh a rousing farewell.

However, like Lloyd, it seems that Waugh will walk off the SCG as a last-time loser. With two days’ play remaining in the 2004 Test against India, Australia are 164 runs short of avoiding the follow-on, with four wickets in hand. They have already become, in this game, the first Australian side to give up 700 runs in an innings on home soil.

This is, to be sure, a rustier Australian team than we have seen in recent times. The bowling is weak, Brett Lee is below (and possibly past) his best, and Stuart MacGill is not consistent enough. (And, yes, MacGill does now have more career Test wickets than Bill O’Reilly. What a travesty.) The fielding looks below par at times, and neither Damien Martyn nor Adam Gilchrist have fired with the bat in this series. Nor, really, has Waugh himself, and one has to wonder how badly the whole farewell thing has interfered with the performance of the Australian team.

India, however, deserve to be on top at this stage. They have now surely retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy as it would take some rank recklessness for them to hand Australia a victory in this game. While their bowling in this series is probably little better, if at all, than Australia’s, the difference has been in the ability of their top batsmen to fire at one time or another. Now that Tendulkar has exploded back into form with his career best 241 not out, all of the Indian top six with the exception of Akash Chopra have contributed at least one big hundred to the team cause during the series. In Laxman’s case, he has done so twice.

Only Hayden, Langer and Ponting can be said to have fired for Australia. Even the tail-enders, one or more of whom can often be expected to pitch in with the odd 60 or 70, have not delivered any extra runs for the Aussies this time.

Despite an extraordinary record as Australian captain, Waugh won’t be going out on top. But that sure didn’t do the reputation of Clive Lloyd any harm.

On the Adelaide Test

Adelaide has seen some remarkable finishes to Australia-India Test matches, but this year’s was a beauty. It’s not often a team can give away 556 runs in the first innings of the match and come back to win. Congratulations Sourav and the gang. Continue reading “On the Adelaide Test”

On the Gabba Test

The honours finished fairly even in the Brisbane Test between Australia and India. If anything, Australia had slightly the upper hand.. but much less so than most people were predicting. Continue reading “On the Gabba Test”