‘Haan Yuvi, bol, Mai apna bag pack kar riha haan (Yes Yuvi, tell me. I am packing my bags). Yuvraj said ‘Papa, Sachin paaji will call you. He will talk to you about his son. Please help him, Yuvraj said.
A few moments after Yuvraj’s call, Sachin Tendulkar called and greeted Yograj. Tendulkar requested if he could train his son, Arjun, for a few days ahead of the Ranji Trophy.
Yograj had to fly to the UK but had 20 days in hand. Yograj, who is himself a former India cricketer, having played 1 Test and 6 ODIs for India between 1980 and 1981, agreed and asked Sachin to send Arjun to the DAV College ground in Chandigarh to meet him.
Arjun, who is playing for Goa in the Ranji Trophy this season, met Yograj.
Yograj had a long chat with Arjun and then the former India cricketer said one thing and signed off for the day.
‘Just forget you are the son of a legend called Sachin Tendulkar. You have your own identity. Just come tomorrow and start training. I will train you for 15 days,’ Yograj told Arjun.
Arjun went back, packed his kit, and came to the stadium the next day. Yograj was already waiting for him.
“When Arjun came. I asked him to run 10 rounds of the stadium. He was running fine. Then I asked him to bowl in the nets. The problem was his left arm was very close to his ear while bowling. I corrected that first. He was a quick learner. He learned this thing very fast. He started bowling well,” Yograj told TimesofIndia.com in an interview from the UK.
“I trained him because Yuvi and Sachin requested me. And I didn’t want to say no to Sachin. He was just concerned about his son,” Yograj further said.
Now, Arjun had to tick another box – his batting.
Yograj, who is known to be a hard taskmaster on the field, asked Arjun to pad up. Yograj had assigned some bowlers to bowl to Arjun and the 23-year-old was smacking the ball all over the park. He tonked some sixes too.
Yograj was impressed but he didn’t praise Arjun. He, in fact said ‘just get out of your father’s shadow. Work hard and you will become the world’s best all-rounder’.
“The kid is very talented. His leaving the Mumbai cricket team is Mumbai’s huge huge loss. They will realise this soon. They have failed to discover his ability. I trained this guy because Sachin and Yuvi requested me. Sachin was worried about his son. He knows that his son is talented that’s why he wants him to be taken care of. When I entered the field, I told every bowler to stop treating Arjun as Sachin’s son and bowl at him with a fierce pace and produce the best spin against him. Arjun tonked them everywhere. He is a destroyer with the bat,” Yograj told TimesofIndia.com.
“He is an all-rounder. Then why were teams sending him down the order? He is a hard-hitting all-rounder like Yuvraj. I see a lot of similarities between Yuvi and Arjun. He will go a long way. One day, the world will remember his name the way they remember Sachin’s name. Arjun will become the most destructive batsman in the world,” the 64-year-old further said.
‘MAI KHELEGA’ – WHEN ARJUN REMINDED YOGRAJ OF A YOUNG SACHIN
Tendulkar was hit on the nose by a Waqar Younis bouncer in Sialkot during his debut series in 1989. Despite the injury, the then 16-year-old continued to bat on fearlessly. His words “main khelega” after being hit have become part of cricketing folklore.
When Arjun was training under Yograj, a similar incident happened and the 64-year-old former cricketer hugged the youngster.
“Arjun was fielding and a direct throw from a boy hit his chin. He was almost bleeding. I looked at his face and said go and apply some ice on it and come tomorrow. He brought ice and said ‘mai khelega’. He reminded me of Sachin when he was hit by Waqar’s bouncer. I just hugged Arjun and said no let’s go to the doctor. There was a lot of swelling on his face. But he came for practice the next day. I just loved his determination,” Yograj recalled.
“I told him, Arjun, duniya se alag chalna padta hai, tabhi aage badhte hain aur tabhi sabb yaad rakhte hain (Arjun, we have to walk on our own path. Only then you will get success and be remembered by all),” he said.
‘YOU ARE JUST LIKE YUVI’
Yuvraj Singh was hands down one of the best all-rounders the cricket world has ever produced. A left-arm spin bowling all-rounder, Yuvraj played vital roles in India’s two World Cup triumphs – ICC T20 World Cup 2007 and ICC World Cup 2011. Among his famous knocks, he is best known for smashing 6 sixes off 6 balls off one Stuart Broad over during the 2007 T20 World Cup.
Yuvraj, the Man of the Tournament in the 2011 World Cup, went on to play 40 Tests, 304 ODIs, and 58 T20Is for India between 2000 and 2017 and scored 11,778 international runs.
Yograj, when he asked Arjun to bat for 20 rounds in 15 minutes, the youngster showed some hard-hitting batting. He was picking the lengths correctly, played some aerial and lofted shots, and pull shots too.
“Arjun reminded me of Yuvi. Arjun is more a batsman than a bowler. He is a devastating batter. Yuvi used to bat in a similar fashion. With time we started sharing the relationship of a grandfather and grandson. I am really happy I could do something for him (Arjun),” Yograj said.
Getting up early in the morning, bowling long spells, and facing hundreds of throwdowns were part of Arjun’s daily practice regime. Yograj had made a list of things Arjun had to follow without fail.
After the practice sessions, Arjun was instructed by Yograj to do a video call with him and speak about his day’s activities.
“One day he didn’t pick up my call. I scolded him via messages. I wanted him to focus. That’s it,” Yograj said.
SACHIN’S CALL TO A ‘STRICT’ YOGRAJ
Yograj knew he had 15 days to train the youngster and he wanted to give everything he could before he left for the UK. Sachin, after some days, called Yograj to ask about his son and his progress.
“I told Sachin one thing ‘Arjun ko iski maa se dur rakhna’ (Keep Arjun away from his mother). No mother wants to see her kid injured, swollen, or bleeding. I told Sachin that I wanted Arjun to remain focused and keep doing what he has been doing. I told Sachin that your son is talented and Mumbai lost this talent,” Yograj told TimesofIndia.com.
“Arjun will become one of the best cricketers in the world. I want to make Arjun for Sachin. Arjun will become as fearless as Yuvi. Arjun needed to come out of his father’s shadow. I told him – you are Arjun first and then Arjun Tendulkar and Sachin’s son.”
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: CENTURY ON DEBUT
Arjun was ready for his first-class debut. Before padding up, he spoke to Yograj. Yograj said ‘Arjun, go and express yourself’.
Playing for Goa, Arjun slammed a century on his first-class debut against Rajasthan. The feat came exactly 34 years after Sachin, then 15, began his first-class journey with an unbeaten 100 against Gujarat at the Wankhede Stadium.
Batting at No. 7, Arjun smashed 120 off 207 deliveries, including two sixes and 16 fours. He had moved from Mumbai to Goa at the start of the season in search of more opportunities.
“Arjun was extremely happy. He was almost in tears. I was extremely happy for him. But I told him strictly, just focus on the next game. Don’t just stick to one milestone, there will be many in the future. Sachin and Yuvi also called me after Arjun’s achievement. I told them to wait and watch this kid and let him be Arjun,” Yograj signed off.