When you are born in a cricket-obsessed nation and harbour the dream of playing the Indian Premier League, you are destined to traverse a tough path - even if you happen to be the son of the proverbial "God of Cricket".
Born on 24 September 1999, Arjun Tendulkar grew up with the goal of becoming a cricketer, just like his father, the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. While his ambitions sparked the nepotism debate right from the beginning of his career, being part of the Tendulkar family did ensure that doors opened and only the very best of training ensued.
With guidance from veterans such as Atul Gaikwad, Subroto Banerjee, and WV Raman in his early years, Arjun has slowly blossomed into a tall left-arm pacer and a seemingly big-hitting lower-order batsman.
The origins of the junior "Little-Master"
Arjun started out by playing in Mumbai's age-group tournaments and slowly made his way into the relevant leagues with incremental performances.
In the 2017-18 Cooch Behar Trophy, the teenager took 19 wickets in just 5 games for Mumbai Under-19 and drew attention in the process. Then in 2017, he represented a CCI XI at the Bradman Oval in Adelaide and garnered appreciation for his 48 run-knock as an opening batsman, coupled with a four-wicket haul.
In July 2017, he was part of the MCC squad against Namibia Under-19 in England, where he claimed four wickets. All of these performances eventually culminated in an Indian cap. The following year, Arjun made his India Under-19 debut during the two-match Youth Test series against Sri Lanka.
A maiden international wicket followed soon enough - just after his first 12 balls.
Building momentum for an IPL call-up
After making his senior debut with Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2021, Arjun Tendulkar became eligible for the IPL 2021 auction. But, with rather underwhelming figures of 1/34 for Mumbai in the tournament, the left-arm fast bowler's future in IPL seemed bleak and triggered yet another discussion around his capabilities - or lack thereof.
However, just a few days before the final auction, Arjun silenced his critics with an outstanding performance in the 73rd Police Invitation Shield Cricket tournament. An unbeaten 77 runs off 31 balls and a 3-wicket haul helped his team MIG Cricket Club defeat Islam Gymkhana by 194 runs.
The icing on the cake was the 5-sixes that he plundered in a single over during that knock. With one swashbuckling effort, Arjun showed his potential and took a giant stride towards that coveted IPL contract.
Soon, destiny smiled upon him.
Arjun Tendulkar - now a Mumbai Indian
The 21-year-old is now almost certain to make his IPL debut with defending champions Mumbai Indians in the IPL 2021.
Although Mumbai Indians' acquisition of the "junior" Tendulkar for his base price of Rs 20 lakhs has been heavily scrutinized by cricket fans, the team management has insisted that his skills ensured his Mumbai ticket and not his father.
From a technical point of view, Arjun's addition to the team can actually benefit the defending champions.
Firstly, the teenager has extensive experience of being a net bowler for the Indian Cricket team. He has also bowled to the England Men's Team, including the time when he almost injured Jonny Bairstow's toe with a crushing yorker before the team's Test series against South Africa in 2017.
Although critics argue that such stints have certainly come thanks to his famous last name, such experiences will surely help him in IPL 2021.
Secondly, Arjun was an active part of the Mumbai Indians support-squad during IPL 2020, where he bowled to stars like Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and Quinton de Kock during the net sessions - all under the watchful eyes of bowling coach Shane Bond and Director of Cricket Operations Zaheer Khan.
Therefore, he already has a good understanding of how the team functions.
Amidst the heavy media attention, the pressure of his IPL debut and the legacy of his father notwithstanding, the challenge for Arjun in the coming days will be to secure a spot in the Mumbai Indians line-up, make those chances count and thereafter, work towards making an IPL career for himself.