A book about Sachin Tendulkar eavesdropping on a college principal interview. Invisible to boot. Sounds impossible, but impossible or otherwise that’s what the Centurion is about. It takes the reader through a debates, arguments and internal musings that turn philosophy, sport and history inside out. But that is after you get to the inside pages. The first stopper is the cover which does not carry the author’s name. And which cocks a snook at the Catholic trilogy in the subhead, though diverting it deftly by adding the word cricket.
Inside is a dialogue between The Arranger of All and someone who may be the author but who declares vehemently that since the author is known by the fiction he creates the author is in short a work of fiction, so there is no need for the author to identify himself. There is also an argument on why Tendulkar should appear at an interview at all, even though the college in question is the institution where Tendulkar’s father taught, with crisscross dialogues on Vyasa and Ganesha. The outcome of which is that nothing is but what is not. Anyone can be the author, even the reader, even Sachin Tendulkar. It doesn’t really matter.
An innovation of its kind, Centurion careers through all kinds of physics and philosophy with some east meets west puns that combine Pepsi’s well known ‘yeh dil maange more’ slogan with Thomas More as an interview pay off. It is certainly the first exercise of its kind that explores the game of cricket as a metaphor for the metaphysical.
Someone did of course write the book: Pramesh Ratnakar, a lover of cricket who also happened to be an academic – you’ll run into him in the afterword. The academic part of him brings in the plethora of theories about the God of Cognition and Non cognition. To prove his fitness for candidature the interviewee has to cite example of these and they range from a haiku poet to other not so usual subjects. Despite his flexibility in arguing his fitness, like most important interviews, the outcome is in doubt and sends the dialogues drifting off into over levels of philosophy, peppered with quotes from T S Eliot.
This is not a book for the reader looking for an easy story. Instead whoever picks up the Centurion should be prepared to have his grey matter exhaustively overhauled. Tongue in cheek though it might be, the Centurion’s arguments need to be followed and the context understood before one can sit back and laugh at the jokes. Of course, there is that eternal question – should India look beyond Sachin Tendulkar or will he continue to be idolised as the batsman beyond batsmen, the clear honest transparent spirit of sport? That is up to you the reader who might also be the person who wrote the book who might be Tendulkar’s spirit or Tendulkar’s pen to decide.
Centurion: The Father, the Son and the Spirit of Cricket
by Pramesh Ratnakar
Published by Harper Collins India, 2012
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