By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Arjun Tendulkar’s 8 for 22 on debut in Mumbai’s famed Inter-schools Harris Shield made national news. It’s in this very tournament that his legendary father, Sachin Tendulkar, first gave notice of his precocious talent.
Tendulkar has grown into – arguably - the biggest media and fan-followed cricketer ever in the history of the game. The media itself has grown monstrously since Sachin’s schooldays. The interest of fans and media has transformed into intrusiveness. This intense glare has put enormous pressure on the players and their families.
Arjun Tendulkar cannot bloom naturally like other children without the burden of a famous surname. The poor kid will be a victim of high and unfair expectations wherever he goes. Though the Tendulkars are level-headed and grounded, they can do nothing with all their wealth to curb the unwanted attention they get at all times – even when they sit down in a restaurant for a private family dinner. There is no sensitivity among fans and media to let them enjoy their personal space.
The eight-for that Arjun took has already raised the bar. The expectations hereafter will be that much higher. And as the media hound him everywhere, he could feel the pressure. The uncharitable comments he would hear from crazed and insensitive onlookers could hurt the young kid. Neither those who expect another Sachin Tendulkar in Arjun nor those venting their anger at Arjun because they could not at his father – and there are many such in India – will do the any good.
It’s never easy to step into the shoes of an iconic parent, especially someone as towering as Sachin Tendulkar. Cricket has seen quite a few sons falling quickly by the wayside because the pressure of expectations of having to play a game with a famous surname in which the father had excelled.
Rohan Gavaskar, son of Sunil Gavaskar, is one example most Indian fans would be acquainted with. Sunil Gavaskar is considered one of the greatest opening batsmen of all time, scoring over 10,000 runs and 34 centuries to his credit in Test cricket. The pressure on Rohan was apparent. Unable to break into a strong Mumbai side in the 1990s, he represented Bengal in the national championship. An India call-up came when he was almost 28 and he seemed to be a decent cricketer in his debut series in Australia. But he had to remain content with 11 One-Day International (ODI) appearances before fading out.
Apart from this there have been quite a few stories that serve as a caution to our hopes of the players who carry the weight of their lineage. Liam Botham (son of Ian Botham) and Mali Richards (son of Vivian Richards) did not set the cricket field alight. Liam switched to rugby after three first-class games, whereas Mali Richards has struggled to keep his career going as his 15 first-class games are spread over a period of almost seven years.
Some of the Indian sons who overcame the pressure of expectations and did as well or better than their fathers are: Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi (son of Iktikhar Ali), Mohinder Amarnath (son of Lala), Aunshuman Gaekwad (son of DK), Sanjay Manjrekar (son of Vijay) and Yuvraj Sigh (son of Yograj).
Sir Richard Hadlee is another glorious example of a son outstripping his father’s achievements. Walter Hadlee was a good batsman for New Zealand, but son Richard went on to become one of the greatest all-rounders in the game.
Many people crumble under pressure, but a handful allows pressure to define them. Will Arjun Tendulkar be one of them?
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.")