In 1988, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old captured the imagination of the entire nation when they both scored triple centuries in the semi-final of the Inter-School Harris Shield Tournament in Mumbai. They put on a 664-run stand which, at the time, was a world record.
India's batting legend Sunil Gavaskar had just retired and he put his weight firmly behind the two. They had to be immediately taken to the next level, he said. The selectors readily agreed.
The elder one of the two picked the India under-19 team and took some time to get into the national squad. The younger wisely picked his home team of Mumbai (then Bombay) in the Ranji Trophy, and got a much earlier entry into Test cricket at the age of 16. The former had a good but brief career.
The latter had the longest and most action-packed international cricket career that anyone could think of. Of course, by now, you are already aware that I am talking about Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli.
|Vinod Kambi and Sachin Tendulkar.|
Their talent was recognised soon and they were given early chances. Both of them proved themselves in the international circuit. (Kambli’s early exit probably had more to do with temperament than talent.)
Now cut to January 2016. In an inter-school match in the same city of Mumbai, 15-year-old Pranav Dhanawade blasted an unheard-of 1009 not out in 323 balls, studded with 59 sixes and 129 fours. In the process he broke a record that had been set in the nineteenth century by AEJ Collins.
While Dhanawade was celebrated and became the toast of the nation, a few critics pointed out how the bowling attack that he faced was weak and much younger, the number of dropped catches, and so on.
However, the fact remains that cricket has been played at the school, college, province and international level for hundreds of years, and there have been many mismatches, but something like this has never been achieved.
Dhanawade has to be taken to the next level in order to prove himself.
Cut to May 2016. A controversy erupted over the fact that the under-19 West Zone team didn’t feature Dhanawade. It wouldn’t have been controversial had not another name caught the eye of social media - Arjun Tendulkar, son of Sachin Tendulkar.
A major controversy erupted and memes comparing Dhanawade and Arjun went viral. While Dhanawade’s record was mentioned, Arjun’s lack of it was highlighted. A Twitter storm ensued and poor Arjun was blasted for no fault of his.
|India is loaded in favour of the dynasty, even in cricket.|
The predictably traditional media came to Arjun’s defence and justified Dhanawade’s omission. The 1009-run match was played before the selection of the Mumbai under-16 team, they said. Various other rules regarding Dhanwade's age were also cited. All this, they said, was crucial for the selection. All manner of arguments were put forward to defend the decision.
But why are you defending the decision to leave someone who has made 1009 runs in a match in the first place? Why did Sachin get a chance to play for Team India at the age of 16? Did anyone ask him to become an adult first?
Imran Khan spotted Wasim Akram in an inter-college match and took him straight into the Pakistani Test team. He made it directly to an international match without playing a single first-class match. Beat that!
Another example is David Warner. He became the first Australian in 132 years to make it to the national team without a first-class game. And how did he perform?
He has already become one of the three batsmen (apart from Sunil Gavaskar and Ricky Ponting) to score a century in each innings of a Test match twice.
And who can forget his demolition of Virat Kohli's team in the final of the recently concluded IPL, where Sunrisers Hyderabad edged out the flamboyant Royal Challengers Bangalore.
When Team India can pick a 16-year-old just like that, and when Pakistan and Australia can pick someone without first-class experience, why are rules being cited for not picking a 1009-run scoring 15-year-old? And that too for a humble West Zone under-16 squad?
When you see talent, you have to grab it with both hands. It happened with Tendulkar and Kambli. It happened with Akram and Warner. However, it is not happening with Dhanawade.
Let’s face it: India is loaded in favour of the dynasty. While an outsider will struggle to get one Bollywood film, a star’s son or daughter is assured of ten films even if all of them are flops. A dynast’s son will get ten chances in politics before he finally makes it.
It’s the same scenario in getting a break in cricket, as we are witnessing now.
It is possible that Arjun is a much better player than Dhanawade. It is also possible that Arjun may have a great international career and Dhanawade may be a one-hit wonder. Who knows? But that is totally besides the point.
Both of them need a chance to prove their true worth.
And right now only the person with the right surname has got that chance.