The media was awash with Arjun Tendulkar headlines all week a couple of weeks ago. The tone and tenor varied but it was Tendulkar Junior in the news wherever you looked. NDTVSports.com headlined the ‘big’ news gushing … ‘Arjun Tendulkar Celebrates After Taking First International Wicket’. A little later in the day, the headline was amended to an even more euphoric one … ‘Arjun Tendulkar Claims Maiden International Wicket, Vinod Kambli Cries ‘Tears Of Joy’’.
Some were not as complimentary. Sify.com, for example, was less ecstatic saying … ‘Arjun Tendulkar starts with first ball glitch but claims maiden wicket to kick-off U-19 career’. The story went on to say, ‘Arjun Tendulkar bagged his maiden international wicket during the first Youth Test match against Sri Lanka U-19 team at the Nondescripts Cricket Club ground in Colombo. Representing India Under-19 team Arjun, son of Sachin Tendulkar, kicked off his U-19 career in style. The left-arm medium pacer needed just 12 balls to claim his maiden international wicket when he dismissed Sri Lanka’s Kamil Mishara LBW. However, his debut started with a glitch as the 18-year-old missed his run-up while bowling his first delivery of his young career in India jersey. Arjun earned his maiden wicket when he bowled an in-swinging length delivery and the left-handed Mishara failed to read the line of the ball and was dismissed for 9. Arjun’s spell of 11 overs included 2 maidens and a wicket conceding 33 runs as Sri Lanka U-19 team were bowled out for 244 runs. Harsh Tyagi and Ayush Badoni took four wickets apiece’.
At first sight, there is nothing wrong with the above reportage. But had it not been for Arjun Tendulkar, son of the legend Sachin Tendulkar, most newspapers and websites may not even have covered a random U-19 match somewhere in Sri Lanka. Even if they had, surely no one would have spent time and energy analysing the dismissal of the Lankan opener through ‘an in-swinging length delivery’ or go on to laboriously explain that ‘the left-handed Mishara failed to read the line of the ball and was dismissed for 9’. More importantly media would surely have not noticed that the bowler, a ‘18-year-old missed his run-up while bowling his first delivery’. But then it was Arjun Tendulkar involved. Brand Tendulkar Version 2.0. And media had no choice but to hype the entire match, talk up the action and analyse every nuance of the young Tendulkar scion including unnecessary fawning, ‘Arjun, son of Sachin Tendulkar, kicked off his U-19 career in style’. What, however, took the cake was that while the single-wicket taker Arjun received so much mention and attention, the star bowlers of the match, ‘Harsh Tyagi and AyushBadoni took four wickets apiece’ were tucked to the bottom of the story, and almost mentioned as an aside!
There could be two schools of thought on what triggered all the media hype. The charitable version is that Sachin is still big news (always will be) and his son got covered because of the dad’s status as a demi-god of cricket. The not-so-charitable view is that Sachin Tendulkar himself had his PR machinery drum-up all the media coverage. Either which way, Arjun was not really the hero; I think Arjun was the victim. Brand Tendulkar Version 2.0 is in grave danger of wilting in the media glare.
The fact that the young boy messed up his first run-up to bowl itself shows how nervous he must have been. Being the son of Sachin Tendulkar must not be easy. Being in the media glare and having every ball you bowl analysed under the microscope is surely neither easy, nor fun. Sure, the younger Tendulkar became well-known, if not famous, post his very first outing in international cricket but I think the poor chap would have preferred a debut without the spotlights focused on him.
Being the progeny of a famous father is a double-edged sword. You are always being compared to the senior in the relationship. In cricket, the record has somehow remained largely skewed in favour of the fathers. Rohan Gavaskar never really got close to anywhere his famous father Sunil had gotten to. In recent times, Stuart Binny showed promise but still fell short of his illustrious all-rounder father, Roger. Similar was the fate of Pranab Roy, son of Pankaj Roy (best remembered for his world record opening stand of 413 runs with Vinoo Mankad). On the international scene too, examples abound. Chris Cowdrey (son of Colin Cowdrey), Richard Hutton (son of Sir Len Hutton) and even Mali Richards (son of Sir Vivian Richards) never really attained the dizzy heights their fathers had attained in world cricket. Most times perhaps the issue was not as much about talent, as about expectations and many of these youngsters just got intimidated and finally submerged under the towering reputations of their fathers, never getting to flower and prosper independently.
My own father tells me that comparisons were most often made in Indian cricket when Lala Amarnath’s sons Surinder and Mohinder came into international cricket in the 70s and 80s. The Lala was the stuff legends are made of. The sons did not have an easy time. Comparisons, comparisons and more comparisons.Lala Amarnath was the first batsman ever to score a century for India in Test cricket. He was independent India’s first cricket captain and captained India in the first Test series win against Pakistan in 1952. So, there was a lot of history when Surinder Amarnath went out to bat on his debut in Test cricket. He scored a century. The comparison charts got even more feverish, more detailed. Mohinder Amarnath was India’s star performer in the World Cup win of 1983. He remained one of the pillars of Indian cricket during his playing days. The good thing was that back in those days, there was much less media to contend with. Famous father not withstanding, the younger Amarnaths got more breathing space. They flourished in their own time, and in their own respective styles. A third brother, Rajinder, never made it to the India XI. But then so be it.
If Arjun Tendulkar has to come into his own as a cricketer of stature, the media needs to leave him alone. Neither glorify him, nor crucify him. He deserves his space. His talent needs to bloom without the media arclights always focused on him. Sure, his dad made his debut at 16 for India. Arjun is 18 and an India senior cap is nowhere still in sight at for him. But does that really matter?
Beyond cricket, even in the movies, towering father figures have killed the careers of sons and daughters. Correction. Not the fathers perhaps, but comparisons with the fathers (or mothers). There is no end of examples. Uday Chopra, Randhir and Rajeev Kapoor, Mimoh Chakravarty, Tanishaa Mukerji, Esha Deol, Harman Baweja, Adhyayan Suman, Sikander Kher, Zayed Khan, Fardeen Khan, Kumar Gaurav, Luv Sinha, Kunal Goswami … all perished in the shadows of famous parents. Actually, the hyper active filmy press was mostly to blame. First, for building up hype and expectations from the juniors, then humiliating them when they failed to deliver quite as well at the box office. Many many promising careers were lost to odious comparisons which just muddied up the lives of the younger generation.
The Brand Tendulkar Version 2.0 story does not end with the bowling performance of Arjun in his debut match. Coming back to bat, he scored a duck. His father too had scored a duck on debut versus Pakistan. Another avalanche of media coverage followed.
Arjun deserves better. I hope better sense will prevail. Sachin himself needs to appeal to media to let his son be. Howsoever much Arjun may be talented, too much media pressure will just wilt and kill the poor kid. His first wicket may have been celebrated with much ado. The rest of his conquests can perhaps be left out for quieter cheers. Brand Arjun Tendulkar should not die even before it is born.
Carol Goyal is a lawyer by training. She writes on subjects that touch her heart.