It’s biography time – beware
Writing a biography is not for the fainthearted, as cricketer Sachin Tendulkar is discovering.
Tendulkar, the idol of India, has released Playing It My Way, and has been hammered for being too outspoken and not outspoken enough.
He attacked Greg Chappell’s handling of the Indian team, describing him as arrogant and divisive. That provoked an outcry, with many saying Tendulkar was digging up dirt to try to sell books.
He barely touched on various match-fixing allegations that have swirled around the Indian team for two decades, and has been accused of shirking his responsibility to be honest and upfront.
Actually, in terms of biographies Tendulkar’s seems pretty good, with morsels to pique the interest of cricket followers.
He praises Nasser Hussein as the best test captain he saw, describes his terror in in facing Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis as a 16-yearold on his test debut, reveals he had more than 100 cortisone injections during his career and speaks of having to catch four buses on his way to cricket practice as a youngster.
England’s enfant terrible, Kevin Pietersen, also got into the book business recently with KP: The Autobiography.
Pietersen is a fairly outthere character and so is his book, with trenchant criticism of some coaches and captains, but only limited analysis of himself. Some punters love it – the book has sold well – but the England cricket establishment has rounded on him.
Some biographies are merely hagiographies. Others make little pretence at revealing much about the subject. Phil Gifford once wrote Grizz: The Legend, which retold many myths and stories about All Black coach Alex Wyllie, but offered little of substance.
Along the same lines, Australian swimming champion Ian Thorpe released This is Me in 2012. Only it wasn’t really him. In the book, he vehemently denied he was gay. Two years later he outed himself, saying he had been gay for many years.
Some outstanding biographies are genuine autobiographies, written by the sport star, rather than ghost- written. Chris Laidlaw’s Mud in Your Eye, Graham Mourie’s Captain and Jeremy Coney’s The Playing Mantis are three that come to mind.
Cricketer Martin Crowe has had two attempts at books of a biographical nature. His first, Out on a Limb, published in 1995, was a fairly standard and rather shallow effort.
Last year Crowe wrote Raw, which was altogether different. He was suffering from cancer by then and partly attributed that to the stress of his life, stress he felt had been caused by holding grudges, not always acting fairly and so on.
Raw was well named because it was brutally honest and parts of it were compelling.
Sometimes a book is offered as an autobiography, but is clearly not the work of the subject.
Esteemed sports writer Terry McLean ghost-wrote I, George Nepia and it’s fair to say it contains more McLean than Nepia.
My favourite autobiography story, though, concerns American basketball star Charles Barkley. His first autobiography ( there have been several), Outrageous, was released in 1992.
No sooner had it hit the bookshops than Barkley was crying foul, saying he had been misquoted. That was surely a first – someone claiming he had been misquoted in his autobiography.
Revised version: Ian Thorpe wrote This is Me in 2012 and two years later conceded the person described in the book wasn’t really him.