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It was a dry monsoon in Mumbai three years ago. Kanga League, traditionally a wet-weather cricket tournament, was being played on the dry, coarse grass in the maidans in south Mumbai. At one side of a ground, a group of boys sat bantering under a small tent one afternoon. Arjun Tendulkar had just been bowled off an inside edge after swishing around on an under-prepared pitch. Chai bobbled around in white plastic cups, and a teammate turned around to pass it on. “Eh, chai peeyega?” Arjun shook his head, the boy let fly some snark: “Haan, haan, tu toh Boost hi piyega na?”
It was a surreal moment: The star-status of his father and a popular TV ad featuring his father, providing a real-world dig. Arjun looked uncomfortable and stared ahead. He sat alone in the crowd. Most kids, we learnt, weren’t too chuffed that he was parachuted into their midst. Awkwardness was in the air. Like you might have felt as a schoolboy sitting with strangers at a new school in an unfamiliar place. Sometimes, it’s difficult for the kids to hit it off even after a while in that setting. And here, the context of being the son of a famous father had injected more awkwardness. One must add that this was just a slice of life from that summer for Arjun. Maybe, he made some friends or at least enough for the uncomfortableness to fade. The incident is pertinent as much as it captured a real-life experience for Arjun and other boys.
Not that Arjun’s cricketing life hasn’t had its privileges. Standing beyond the boundary that day, under a tree, was Subroto Banerjee, the former India bowler and a bowling coach, who was asked by his friend Sachin Tendulkar to mentor Arjun. In the last couple of years, there have been others who have kept an eye on Arjun. Pravin Amre would check in on his batting.
The perception during this phase was that Arjun was a boy in love with the game but it wasn’t clear whether he had the skills to grade up. The left-arm medium pace seemed decent enough and the batting would be noticeable at times. There was nothing dramatic. The last few months have been far more fruitful: He has grown physically, his bowling action is more fine-tuned, his pace has increased enough to try bouncing regular Test opener Shikhar Dhawan at the Indian team’s nets.