The 21-year-old, son of legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, was the last name to come up in the IPL 2021 auction in Chennai on Thursday, and the six-time IPL champions were the only team to bid for him at his base price of Rs 20 lakh.
Sachin, of course, was a key member of the Mumbai Indians lineup during his playing days and continues to be a part of the franchise’s setup. His son, Arjun, made his senior team debut for Mumbai at the recently-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and bagged a wicket each in the two matches he played, at an economy-rate of 9.57. The left-arm pacer was a net bowler for MI during the last IPL and also has the experience of bowling in the senior Indian team’s nets.
While his father’s legacy made Arjun one of the big names in Thursday’s IPL auction, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise to many had he not been picked by any team. However, MI going for him was also on expected lines.
Soon after the auction ended, Mumbai Indians put out a video on their Facebook page in which head coach Mahela Jayawardene, director of cricket operations Zaheer Khan, and owner Akash Ambani explained their decision to bid for Arjun.
“We’ve looked at it purely on a skill basis,” said Jayawardene. “I mean, there is going to be a big tag on his head because of Sachin. But, luckily, he’s a bowler, not a batsman. So I think Sachin will be very proud if he could bowl like Arjun.
“I think it’s going to be a learning process for Arjun. He just started playing for Mumbai, and now the franchise. He will learn the ropes; he will evolve. He’s still young. A very focused young man. We have to give him time and hopefully not put a lot of pressure on him either. Just let him evolve and work his way up, and that’s what we’re there to help him to do.”
Khan added: “Over the years, you’ve seen with our set-up, we’ve always backed youngsters. We have always been scouting hard for talents, give them the opportunities. That has not changed in this auction as well. If you see, we have managed to achieve that nice balance of youth and experience. So that thorough process has been there and we’ll continue to do that. We have some exciting young talent this time as well and Arjun, for sure, has been one of them. He was part of this squad when we went to Abu Dhabi last IPL. So he has spent enough time with us.”
Khan said that Arjun has a good work ethic and will be given a positive environment at MI, but he’ll have to cope with the pressure that comes with his surname.
“I have spent a lot of time with him. In the nets, working alongside him, trying to teach him a few tricks of the trade. And that has been going well,” Khan said. “He’s a hard-working kid and is really keen on learning. So that is something which is an exciting part. And look, the added pressure of the name Sachin Tendulkar is always going to be there on him and something which he will have to live by. But we’re very hopeful that the environment we have around the team is definitely going to help him become a better cricketer.
“I think the less said the better - how many times a youngster gets picked in the auction and everyone is talking about it? That is something, which is always going to happen, but we are looking at things under a very simple lens - it’s just a youngster coming in the side. He has to prove himself, he has to show all the coaching staff and the think tank of the team that he’s got the goods to belong there. So what he does there at the highest level is in his hands.”
Ambani, too, was full of praise for Arjun and the rare attribute he possesses.
“Arjun has a beautiful skillset, he’s a left-arm fast bowler and can bat left-hand. There’re not many of those in world cricket. But it’s very important that his process and his progression happens as any other young cricketer’s. Fortunately, at MI, we help individuals reach their potential. It’s all on their hard work but we believe we have the environment to do that. Hopefully we can see Arjun reach his potential in the coming years as many youngsters, without taking names, have,” said Ambani.