In an interview to the New York Times a few years ago, Jakob Dylan spoke about his father Bob Dylan, a man he otherwise conscientiously kept out of media interactions. A man he is reported to share a strained relationship with. A man whose name he never wanted to be accused of misusing to advance his career.
The lyrics from Hand Me Down, a song Jakob wrote in 2000, are indicative of what it must feel like to live in the shadow of the greatest singer-songwriter of all time: You’re a hand me down/It’s better when you’re not around/You feel good and you look like you should/But you won’t ever make us proud.
“I still go into a restaurant and people say, ‘I love your dad’s work’,” he once told the NYT.
Imagine hearing that almost every day of your life. It can’t be easy when the man you hero-worship and want to be so much like becomes your cross to bear because of the pressure you place on yourself and the expectations others place on you of living up to this legacy. Then, there is always the possibility of facing the reality that you may not be as talented even if you possess the desire, commitment and motivation. It is too early to fully comprehend the consequences and pressures of what it is to be Sachin Tendulkar’s son. But events of the past few days have provided a glimpse of what might be in store. With the harsh glare of the media focused firmly on him, and the intense curiosity that accompanies his lineage, Arjun Tendulkar, all of 13, took his first strides towards pursuing his passion at the competitive level when he was picked for Mumbai’s Under-14 team last week.
Already, accusations of nepotism have begun with newspapers carrying stories of disgruntled parents who believe their children missed out. Being the son of a famous father is never easy. When that father is Sachin Tendulkar, it would take some serious courage and a thick skin to make a profession out of pursuing cricket in this era of suffocating media scrutiny. It is still too early to tell whether Arjun will dedicate himself to a full-time career. Of course, a lot rests on how he progresses through the ranks of Mumbai cricket. Meanwhile, he will just have to learn to ignore the constant criticism and microscopic examination, an art his father perfected through his career.
In an interview Tendulkar gave me three years ago, he spoke about the talk around his son carrying on his legacy. “He should not have any pressure in his life and in his cricket. Above all, cricket should find its way first into his heart first, then his mind,” Tendulkar said. “If cricket is missing in his heart, it won’t work.” After the Under-14 team was announced last week, Tendulkar made another appeal, “I hope that people leave him alone to enjoy this beautiful game as a normal member of the team,” he told the Indian Express.
Except that Arjun is anything but a normal member of the team. If there is one person who has some sense of what it feels like to be Arjun, it is Rohan Gavaskar. In his first Kanga League outing, at 14, Rohan and Eknath Solkar’s son Brijesh both had poor games. A photo of the two appeared in the papers the next day with a big caption that read, ‘Like Fathers, Unlike Sons’. Rohan says it hurt, but he used it to motivate himself.
“I was lucky enough to realise early in my career (during his first Ranji season) that chances of me being another Sunil Gavaskar are very slim. I often got told I was not as good as my dad. And what could I say? It’s true. But nobody else was as good as my dad. And that made it easier. When it comes to Gavaskar and Tendulkar, you’re talking of the greatest of all time. I couldn’t compete with his legacy. I just wanted to be the best that I could be,” says Rohan, who played just 11 One-Day International matches for India but enjoyed a successful first-class career with Bengal.
Others didn’t have it quite as tough in their attempt to follow in their father’s footsteps. Sanjay Manjrekar believes he was fortunate enough to make his debut for Mumbai long after his father Vijay Manjrekar had faded out of the spotlight. “I never really felt the pressure of having to live up to his legacy because my pursuit was very independent, completely my own and not closely monitored by my father.”
The advantage of being cricketing progeny, Sanjay reveals, was that when it came to selection trials featuring 200 kids, you got the attention that came with the famous last name. While Sanjay is often talked about for his peerless technique, a gene he is believed to have inherited from his dad, he didn’t watch his father play international cricket; he was born a few months after father Vijay played his last Test in 1965. There have also been instances of sons who outshone their fathers, like Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, influenced greatly by his father Iftikhar Ali Khan, revered for his valour and leadership. In some cases, cricketers whose fathers didn’t have a successful career have had to bear the very heavy burden of fulfilling their parents’ frustrated ambitions, apart from their own dreams. Like Yuvraj Singh, who has often alluded to the complicated relationship he shares with his father who squashed all aspiration of him pursuing a career in roller-skating.
But these are generally happier stories than the sons of highly successful fathers aiming to emulate their achievements. Cricketing history across the world is littered with examples of sons of super-hero dads who attempted to carve their own niche but fell short. Like Liam Botham, who started out as a cricketer and soon turned to rugby, or Richard Hutton, who was never quite as good as his father Len. Don Bradman’s son John felt the pressure without even pursuing a career in cricket. He dropped the ‘Bradman’ suffix at 32 after he found it immensely difficult to deal with the “incessant strain of publicity”. He took refuge in the more anonymous ‘Bradsen’ and only went back to Bradman, the name and the father, when he established a successful career as a lawyer.
The expectations, the scrutiny, the pressure, and the constant comparisons — all downsides of being the offspring of very successful cricketing fathers. The advantages — the spotlight, the doors it opens and having a coach at home to sort out niggles. Not to mention the sense of entitlement when you bear a name such as Gavaskar or Tendulkar. Ultimately, for Rohan, not letting down his father off the field became more important than on it. For Arjun, it may be worth keeping in mind that he only wants to be the best he can be.
This article first appeared in www.wisdenindia.com. Reprinted with permission.
What’s in a name?
Being a proud member of Shivaji Park Gymkhana in their battles with arch-rivals Dadar Union, Vijay Manjrekar did not want his son Sanjay to represent Dadar Union Sporting Club. Sanjay was hell bent on playing for the Matunga outfit since his hero Sunil Gavaskar played for the same team.
Manjrekar Sr did not relent. Ultimately, it was Dadar Union captain Vasu Paranjape who resolved the issue — with one phone call to Vijay, who we are told, was urged not to be ‘childish’ and allow Sanjay to play.
One of the more forgettable moments of Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s stint as chairman of India selectors was when the committee picked his son Anirudha for a junior tournament in Australia. Pundits felt he ought to have left the room when the discussion centred around his son’s selection, but he didn’t. As expected, tongues wagged when the team was announced. The rumour mills were busy and a little birdie told us that it was none other than Srikkanth who insisted on his son’s selection.
A few experts in Australia reckon Sir Donald Bradman disapproved the fact that his 32-year-old son John, changed his name to Bradsen in 1972, but John said a few years ago that “the first person to suggest it (the name change) was him (Sir Don).”
South African Peter Pollock felt uncomfortable when his all-rounder son Shaun was in fine form to command a place in the South African team during the 1995-96 season, a time when he was a selector. The cricket bosses told him they had confidence in his integrity. Ultimately, he played his role in picking Shaun. Just when Peter was writing out the team to be announced to the media, he got a tap on the shoulder. It was from coach Bob Woolmer, who said: “Well done, Dad.”
Current selector Roger Binny could witness a situation where he is party to his son Stuart’s selection for India or India ‘A’. Will he excuse himself when his little Stuart is being discussed?
Compiled by Clayton Murzello