Arjun Tendulkar has a challenging path to traverse; media scrutiny will only make it worse

Arjun Tendulkar — a left-arm pacer — hasn’t exactly set the Mithi River on fire, in local cricket, he has shown promise in the last few months. And therefore, he needs to be left alone, to grow on his own.

Austin Coutinho, Mar 03, 2018 17:03:11 IST

Arjun will not be playing the Mumbai T20 cricket league. At least, that’s what most Mumbai newspapers and city-based news portals have informed us over the last couple of days. Arjun who? The ‘Master’, Sachin Tendulkar’s 18-year-old son who is training to be a fast bowler!

Now, Arjun Tendulkar’s non-availability isn’t something like a Mitchell Starc or a Ben Stokes missing the IPL. But a few young sports reporters, not so wet behind their ears, would like us to believe so. Probably, they don’t understand that their Tendulkar-fixation may help advance their own careers but may destroy that of a budding fast bowler.

A few months ago when the young pacer hit England’s Jonny Bairstow on the toes with a yorker, in the England nets, the reporters went gaga over it. Receiving headlines for a thing so trivial may have even embarrassed both father and son.

Arjun Tendulkar has a challenging path to traverse; media scrutiny will only make it worse

Having a famous father casts a long shadow. Here, Sanjay Manjrekar, Arjun Tendulkar, Rohan Gavaskar. Illustration courtesy Austin Coutinho

Though Tendulkar Jr. — a left-arm pacer — hasn’t exactly set the Mithi River on fire, in local cricket, he has shown promise in the last few months. And therefore, he needs to be left alone, to grow on his own.

Tendulkar Jr. was initially trained by former India new ball bowler, Subroto Banerjee and is now under the guidance of Pune based bio-mechanist, Atul Gaikwad. The latter is said to have remodeled the youngster’s bowling action. The youngster had developed stress fractures — probably because of a faulty action — over the last few years.

Though the Mumbai Cricket Association — ever-willing to please the ‘Master' — and the young journalists would love to see Tendulkar Jr. playing the league, Tendulkar Sr. has rightly advised him not to. “You don’t experiment with a remodeled action in a tournament,” he is believed to have told his son.

Celebrity kids, following in the footsteps of their illustrious parents, have never had it easy. Take for instance, the case of Sanjay Manjrekar and Rohan Gavaskar, sons of the legendary Vijay Manjrekar and Sunil Gavaskar respectively:

Though I haven’t been able to lay my hands on Sanjay Manjrekar’s book, Imperfect, I can safely say that I have watched two versions of the great batsman. Sanjay 1.0 was from 1980 to 1985, when he was introverted, perhaps inhibited by his father’s reputation — both as a legend and a foul-mouth — and prone to throw away his wicket.

Sanjay 2.0 was a responsible man — probably after his father’s demise — of classy demeanour, a tightened up defence and super strokes, right out of the coaching manual. I remember getting him out quite a few times in the earlier version and then watching him score a Ranji hundred against Baroda in 1986 at RCF Sports Club after the change-over. His batting, for India, was always a treat to watch.

Rohan was the well brought up kid who always remained under the shadow of his legendary father. A classy stroke player, I saw him score a hundred in an inter-collegiate final. The sports editor of Outlook magazine, I remember, had asked me in the mid ‘90s my impressions of Gavaskar Jr. I had replied that he would be a very good first-class player but his success from thereon would depend on how fast he adjusted to the demands of international cricket.

He played 117 first-class matches, scored 6,938 runs @ 44.19 and had 18 first-class hundreds. He played only 11 ODIs.

Both of them, unmistakably, were pressurised by the family name!

Don Bradman’s son John changed his surname to Bradsen just to divert the media and public gaze away from him. Greta, the legend’s daughter, says, “When John was a kid, everybody would ask him if he would be a great cricketer like his father. That affected him.”

How many Indian celebrity kids have really surpassed their fathers’ achievements or reputations? Three names that immediately come to mind are Mansoor Ali Khan of Pataudi, Mohinder Amarnath and Ramesh Krishnan who probably were as famous, if not more than their illustrious fathers.

Neither Ashok Kumar (hockey) nor Gaurav Natekar (tennis) or Pranab Roy (cricket) were as well known as Dhyan Chand, Nandu Natekar and Pankaj Roy. Deepika Padukone, Saif Ali Khan and Angad Bedi found their niche in films.

In international sport, the Peles, the Cowdreys etc., have struggled to live up to family legacy. But in recent years, Stuart Broad, Shaun Pollock and Alec Stewart have performed better than their famous fathers. The Marsh brothers too are on their way to achieving greater fame.

The Tendulkar family will be well aware of the pitfalls of sons following in the footsteps of their fathers, especially in sport. Therefore, to begin with Arjun shall have to make himself immune to public praise — and criticism. They are both impostors!

A fast bowler’s mindset is completely different from that of a batsman, or even a spinner. Arjun shall therefore have to set his own goals, and the plans to achieve them. Who better than his own father to teach him the benefits of discipline, self-image and perseverance?

Every coach who has passed the coaching exam of the NCA, especially in Amchi Mumbai, thinks it is his prerogative to remodel bowlers’ actions. More than a decade ago, there was this pacer in my camp, who was an India Under-19 probable. Since he wasn’t sent to the World Cup, he was asked to join a premier fast bowling camp. At the end of three months, the boy returned with a stiff back and a morphed action.

It took him two years of unlearning that action to play for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy. And despite some big hauls, he was never in contention for an India place, because he had lost pace and swing.

Tendulkar Jr. is a celebrity kid. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He doesn’t know what it means to travel from Dombivili to BKC for practice or for that matter, he may never have been pushed out of a moving train with a huge cricket bag on his shoulders.

Moreover, he will never be backstabbed by teammates or coaches for the fear of antagonising his father, the ‘Master’. Journalists and writers, for the same reason, will write glowingly about him. It is here that Arjun will have to realise his unique position, as Sachin Tendulkar’s son, and learn to play cricket the ‘khadoos’ way.

I have been fortunate enough to watch Sachin Tendulkar’s work ethic from when he was still in his early teens, at the RCF Sports Club. His coach, Ramakant Achrekar would often drop him, on his scooter, at 3 pm and then come back only to pick him up at 6 pm. In between the ‘Master’ would work relentlessly on honing his strokes. He wasn’t required to be told what to do; he had his own plans.

He was self-motivated; that’s why he was the best in the world for a quarter of a century.

It is said that a coach can motivate by fear, or he can motivate by reward. Both these methods are temporary. The only lasting thing is self-motivation. I believe that if Arjun Tendulkar can self-start and be goal-oriented, he will be up there, among the best.

The author is a caricaturist and sportswriter. A former fast bowler and coach, he is now a sought after mental toughness coach.

Updated Date: Mar 03, 2018 17:03:11 IST

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