Being Arjun Tendulkar must be hard. Yes, you do have access to the best training facilities, nutrition, coaches et al. Yet, how taxing it must be to continuously walk with the burden of a supremely famous last name, one that proves to be omnipresent in every corner of the nation.
It is owing to this very burden, that Don Bradman's son changed his surname to Bradsen in 1972.
With 20 to defend off the last over, Arjun conceded just five runs, picked up his maiden IPL wicket, and most importantly, did not wilt under the immense pressure the big stage brings with it. At the end of it, two of the three questions asked in the post-match interview are still about his father – Ravi Shastri congratulated him on being the first Tendulkar to pick up a wicket in the IPL, and Ian Bishop enquired whether he talks cricket tactics with Dad.
Imagine being Arjun Tendulkar. Granted, the recognition and universal respect the name 'Sachin' elicits is something to be proud of, but beyond that, who would not be desperate to carve one's own identity?
Imagine having to keep your guard up all the time, face intense scrutiny and have the pressure of carrying a legacy 24*7. All it takes is one mistake, a minuscule error, for the internet to blow up.
Arjun's Opening Salvo
To his credit, Arjun Tendulkar has done most things right in his nascent IPL career of two matches. In his debut match against Kolkata Knight Riders, conceded 17 off his two overs, whilst bowling in the powerplay.
Coming off a wobbly run up, the left-arm medium-pacer demonstrated the ability to bring the ball back into the right-hander – which is one of the first few things you look at in a bowler of his ilk. Left-armers have a natural angle of taking the ball away from the right-hand batters, but if they have the ability to bring the ball back in, chances are, they can be very lethal.
Arjun is not particularly of the type that is referred to as 'gun pacers.' His average pace is around 130 kmph, but being only 23 years of age, he has time to work on this aspect of his game.
Beyond that one drawback, what really stands out is his wrist position. He came close to picking up a wicket on two occasions in his very first over against KKR, but wasn't required post the powerplay.
In his second match as well, Arjun was on the money, giving away 13 runs from his first two overs in the powerplay. Despite being charged by Harry Brook off the fourth ball of his first over, Arjun maintained his composure and did not lose his control on line and length. He did bowl a couple of deliveries down the leg side in his second over, but overall, it was a job well executed.
When Arjun was handed the ball in the last over, Sunrisers Hyderabad were already eight down with 20 to get. Yet, with the powerful Abdul Samad still at the crease, a few jitters were only natural.
After all, this was not only Arjun's first over at the death but also his first over outside the powerplay in the IPL. We have seen how bowlers, with the exception of Sandeep Sharma, have succumbed to pressure in the last over. Arjun, however, did not lose his bearings.
Honestly, he pleasantly surprised both the commentators and the viewers by nailing the wide yorkers – not the easiest job in the business as the bowlers tend to spray it wide more frequently than their skippers would like them to. Rohit Sharma, however, had one less headache to deal with, with Arjun showing impeccable precision.
Arjun has been a part of this team for the last three years. I have seen him grow over the years. He understands what he wants to do and he is quite confident about what he wants to do for the team as well. We saw in this lead-up to the IPL what he was doing; he was bowling fast, nailing those yorkers, and quite clear in his plans as well. Keeping things easy - that's what he is trying to do. He is trying to swing the new ball and bowl yorkers at the death.MI captain Rohit Sharma on Arjun Tendulkar
Rising Through the Ranks
One got to hear of Arjun Tendulkar's cricketing acumen for the first time when he was selected in the Mumbai under-19 squad in September 2017. Next year, in 2018, he made it to the Indian under-19 squad for two four-day matches in Sri Lanka.
Arjun was then picked up by Mumbai for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in late 2020, amid the pandemic, but returned with ordinary figures of 1/34 on debut.
Mumbai Indians' decision to pick Arjun for Rs 30 lakhs in 2021 made ripples, as aspersions of nepotism were cast on social media. But, clearly, one cannot make it too far on nepotism in a sport like cricket, where every player undergoes extensive scrutiny, especially with a tournament like IPL around.
Arjun showed that his selection was no flash in the pan as he kept climbing up the cricketing ladder, making it to the Mumbai Ranji Trophy squad at the end of 2021. It came as a setback for him when he was dropped from the Mumbai squad without getting a chance to show his chops
Carving One's Own Identity
Arjun then decided to move to Goa to get some much-required game time. Interestingly, Sachin Tendulkar requested Yuvraj Singh's father Yograj Singh, a former India International and acclaimed actor, to train Tendulkar junior. The 64-year-old hard taskmaster tried to polish the all-rounder over 15 days at the DAV College Ground in Chandigarh. Yograj was impressed by Arjun's work ethic, focus, endurance and tenacity, but above all, his batting.
"Arjun reminded me of Yuvi. Arjun is more a batsman than a bowler. He is a devastating batter. Yuvi used to bat in a similar fashion," was Yograj's verdict.
Soon, the world got to see his batting potential as he hit 120 off 207 deliveries on his Ranji Trophy debut for Goa, emulating Sachin's feat of registering a century on his first-class debut.
Having walked in at 201/5, Arjun went on to stitch a 221-run partnership with RCB batter Suyash Prabhudessai, en route to the milestone.
He had decent returns in the white-ball season for Goa as well. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s, he took 10 wickets from seven matches at a brilliant economy rate of 5.69 and was Goa's second-highest wicket-taker, behind only Lakshay Garg. In the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy, he finished as Goa's leading wicket-taker, with seven wickets from eight games at an average of 32.37 and an impressive economy rate of 4.98.
It is nothing short of an achievement that Arjun is currently playing for Mumbai Indians, as their first-choice, and only Indian pace bowling option, ahead of the likes of Arshad Khan and Sandeep Warrier. Much like Yograj Singh, the star-studded Mumbai Indians support staff must have noticed something special in the all-rounder.
"One day, the world will remember Arjun's name the way they remember Sachin's name," Yograj had said after coaching the prodigy.
If Arjun turns out to be even half as good as Yograj estimates, we will see him around for a long, long time. And perhaps in due course, he will be cheered on as Arjun, not as Sachin's son.