Dynasty is a much maligned word in many sections of the society as it signifies the right of a person to certain entitlements based only on his/her birth and not on merit. However, when it comes to the arena of sports and games, having a famous surname is not a ticket to easy success. Instead, on most occasions, it turns out to be a liability on account of the intense pressure brought by comparisons and expectations.
A child taking up a sport where one his/her parents has been successful, finds it being compared invariably at all stages to the illustrious predecessor, which itself is bound to create a natural antipathy in his/her mind. Similarly the enormous pressure to excel and maintain very high standards continuously would, in most cases, kill the joy and relaxation that participation in sporting events bring to children. Hence one finds that in the sporting arena, the concept of children following in their parents' footsteps is the exception rather than the rule. A study of Indian cricket history would reveal that only very few sons have successfully followed their fathers into the national side.
Leading the way
The first father-son duo to represent the country hailed from the princely class. Iftikhar Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, first played for England, making a century on his Test debut against Australia during the infamous “Bodyline” series in 1932-33. In 1946, he was called upon to lead the Indian side touring England. Though well past his prime by then, he brought all his experience to fore by guiding an inexperienced Indian side through a three-Test series.
His son Mansoor Ali Khan, popularly known as Tiger Pataudi, was rated as one of the most exciting talents in the game while playing for Oxford University. However, he suffered permanent damage to his right eye from a car accident, which almost ended his playing days. But he showed steely determination and resumed playing cricket, making the required adjustments to his game and made his Test debut against England in Delhi in 1962.
He was appointed as vice-captain of the national side for the tour to West Indies that followed, but he had to take over the mantle of captaincy following the serious head injury suffered by skipper Nari Contractor. He led India through the 1960s and molded the side into a fighting unit. He was removed from captaincy in 1971, but returned as skipper for one last series against the West Indies at home in 1974-75. He married Sharmila Tagore, a popular cine artist, and their two children decided to follow in their mother's footsteps into the field of acting.
Vinoo Mankad, the first great all-rounder produced by India, was equally good with both bat and ball and would have made his way into the national side in either capacity. He was a right-handed batsman who could bat in any position, but was most successful as an opener, hitting two double centuries in that position. He also held the world record for highest opening partnership, which stood for more than 50 years. As a bowler, his left-arm orthodox spin bowling played a vital role in all of India’s victories in Test matches during the 1950s. He took eight wickets in an innings on two occasions and held the record for the fastest double (1,000 runs and 100 wickets) till Ian Botham broke it in 1979. He also led India in five Tests.
His elder son Ashok Mankad made his Test debut against New Zealand in 1968, but was soon catapulted to being the opening batsman, where he fitted in adequately during the initial years. After being dropped following poor performances during tour to England in 1971, he returned to the side as a middle order batsman in 1974. However, he could never find the consistency required to sustain a career at the highest level. He was one of the top performers in domestic cricket and was widely acknowledged as one of the best cricketing brains in the country. Rahul Mankad, the younger son of Vinoo, played first class cricket for Mumbai for some years but did not make it to Test level.
Lala Amarnath created cricketing history by becoming the first Indian batsman to score a Test century when he hit a brilliant 118 against England in Mumbai in 1933 on his debut. Lala was in many ways the first stormy petrel of Indian cricket and his career as player and captain suffered on that count as well due to the war years from 1939 till 1945. He was also a useful medium-pacer, besides leading India in eight Tests, earning a reputation for being a shrewd and bold skipper.
Surinder Amarnath, the eldest son of Lala, emulated his father by scoring a century on his debut, against New Zealand at Auckland in 1976, thus becoming the first father-son duo to do so. However, his career in international cricket did not progress smoothly and he could never make his mark at the highest level. He was also treated callously by the selectors.
Mohinder, the second son, started as a medium-pacer and made his Test debut in 1969. He played his next Test in 1976, but his batting had improved considerably by then and soon he started manning the crucial No. 3 spot in the line-up. Mohinder's career suffered many ups and downs during the next decade, but he carried on unruffled, displaying steely determination and exceptional physical courage. He was unfortunate not to lead the country despite coming very close to being nominated as the captain on many occasions. Rajinder, the youngest, played for Indian school boys and Punjab as a medium-pacer, and is more famous as the biographer of his father.
Pankaj Roy, Vinoo Mankad's partner during their world record opening stand of 413 against New Zealand in 1956, made his debut during the home series against England in 1951-52 and quickly scored two centuries. Despite suffering a setback when he scored five ducks in seven innings, during the tour to England in 1952, he established himself as the regular opening batsman of the national side during the 1950s and also led India in one Test against England in 1959. His son Pranab Roy was also an opening batsman and he played two Test matches, both against England, at home in 1982.
Datta Gaekwad started his career as an opening batsman, making his debut against England in 1952. Though his career in international cricket lasted till 1961, he played only in 11 Tests, captaining India in four, during the tour to England in 1959. His son Anshuman Gaekwad distinguished himself as a brave and technically sound batsman. He started as a middle order batsman, but later moved to the opening slot, where his raw courage and patience were valuable assets. He holds the record for the slowest double century in first class cricket, when he took 671 minutes to score 201 against Pakistan at Jalandhar in 1983.
Vijay Manjrekar was one the finest players of fast bowling in India during the 1950s and 60s. His best knocks were all played in England and the West Indies where he stood up to the fast bowlers and held together the Indian middle order. His son Sanjay was one of the most technically accomplished batsmen that India has produced. However, he was not able to live up to the early promise he displayed when he scored centuries in the West Indies and Pakistan against top class bowling attacks.
Yograj Singh was rated alongside Kapil Dev as a fast bowler when they were both getting trained under Desh Prem Azad during the 1970s. Yograj was a member of the Indian side that toured Australia and New Zealand in 1980-81 and played in one Test against the latter, without much success. His son Yuvraj made his international debut during Champions Trophy in 2000 and soon matured into one of the vital cogs in the limited overs’ side. An attacking left-hander, a useful left-arm spinner and a brilliant fielder, Yuvraj had the capacity to turn around a game single-handedly. Though he was not very successful in Tests, he played critical roles in all the major title triumphs achieved by India in limited overs cricket from 2002 to 2011. He also fought a successful battle against cancer and holds the unique record of hitting six sixes in an over in a T20 International.
Roger Binny, who played for India during the 1979-1987 phase, was a useful all-rounder, capable of scoring vital runs as well as producing the odd unplayable delivery, besides being an excellent fielder. He played a significant role in India winning the 1983 World Cup, picking up 18 wickets to emerge as the top wicket-taker of that tournament. His son Stuart followed in his father’s footsteps as an all-rounder, but has not been able to establish himself in the national squad despite performing creditably in the limited opportunities that came his way.
Hemant Kanitkar was a technically sound batsman from Maharashtra who played two Tests against the touring West Indians in 1974. He made his Test debut at the age of 32, but despite top-scoring with a half-century in his very first innings, he could not retain his place in the side as selectors looked for younger options. His son Hrishikesh was an all-rounder who bowled off spin and could bat effectively in lower middle order. He also played in only two Tests but figured more in One-Day Internationals where he lent balance to the side during the late 1990s.
Sunil Gavaskar does not need a introduction to any person following the game. His exploits with the bat, his record as a captain, his skills as a writer and commentator are all well known and documented. His son Rohan, a left-handed batsman and a useful spinner, played for Bengal in domestic cricket and turned out for India in 11 One-Day Internationals, scoring a fifty against Zimbabwe on one occasion.
Thus, it emerges that out of the 300-odd players who have turned out for India only a handful can boast of a surname with substantive pedigree so far as the game is concerned. When this aspect is studied one finds that it is England that has largest number of sons following their fathers into international cricket, while Pakistan and Sri Lanka figure at the bottom, with India placed somewhere in between. Thus, though subcontinent is considered to the place where dynastic traditions and practices are in existence, when it comes to cricket, it has invariably been merit rather than family connections that has served as the determining factor so far selection to higher levels are concerned.
Another interesting aspect is that children of moderately successful fathers have fared better than progeny of super achievers! The cases of Yuvraj SIngh, Anshuman Gaekwad, Mohinder Amarnath and Tiger Pataudi who performed much better than their modestly successful fathers and the average performances of Rohan Gavaskar, Pranab Roy, Ashok Mankad, Stuart Binny who fared much poorer than their illustrious sires would support this hypothesis. Manjrekars stand as the exception to this rule as both father and son achieved reasonable amount of success at the highest level while the Kanitkars played in too few matches to make much of an impact.
One hears that Arjun Tendulkar is taking his first steps on the cricket field. He has the toughest task on hand, as there would be considerable media attention on him and comparisons with his illustrious father would follow. I wish the young man all the very best and hope that he would prove to be the exception to the general rule enunciated above.
(The author is a former international umpire and a senior bureaucrat)