Sanjay Manjrekar the commentator is under scrutiny; as much as his ‘solid defense’ based batting got after 1991-92 tour to Australia. This time it’s off the field; and started the day India faced Australia in T20 world cup game late March 2016.
Following an Amitabh Bachchan tweet and, more importantly, an MS Dhoni re-tweet of the same, Indian commentators are now becoming part of social media dissection. This is serious stuff and much beyond the ‘what the doctor ordered’ trolls that were made to poke fun at commentator Ravi Shastri.
When the said tweet made the rounds, the general perception was that it’s aimed at Sanjay Manjrekar and Akash Chopra. Hence when BCCI terminated Harsha Bhogle’s commentator’s contract, it misled many to believe Harsha was the sole ‘guilty’ party, if you can say so!
Manjrekar’s criticism of an injured Yuvraj Singh during the T20 World Cup Australia game got fans abuzz again. The charge was (and is) simple – Sanju Manju doesn’t praise, appreciate or sympathize with Indian players as much he does with opposition players.
This charge isn’t a newly born, 2016, phenomenon. Way back in 2009, Sanju Manju first stirred controversy by saying, Sachin Tendulkar was an “elephant in the dressing room” after a lean patch. It started from there.
After the just concluded Kingston test, Sanjay told on air that ‘India lacked a plan B’. Now this was preposterous to the point of intentionally rubbing salt on wounds and also disrespecting the rookie West Indian middle order’s gallant efforts.
Indian team management, Virat & Kumble, went with five bowlers – on itself a rarity in Indian cricket – had attacking fields on last day of the second test, tried every logical bowling combination, got bowlers to change ends, bowl short spells, tried different fields, tried ‘mental disintegration’ and many other possible tricks in book.
Hence am confused when Manjrekar says lacked plan B. Maybe he has confused himself with alphabets (maybe he meant lacked plan F) because Virat had tried every other immediate alternative. Such wrong judgement would likely have been noticed by players, management, fans and doesn’t do the incisive commentator any good.
He adds in his version of ‘plan B’ that India should have played, Ravindra Jadeja (changed the first test winning combo he meant!!) bowled more slow balls and instead of getting obsessed with close in catching, should have made the West Indian batters play the drive more. Am no expert, but to a layman on a day Windies made 340/2 i doubt if the above two suggestions were the best ones to execute; knowing Virat was under pressure to dismiss, and dismiss quick – another rain threat wasn’t ruled out.
Even after the first hour play, Sanjay kept harping that Virat should have started the day with Ashwin (and not with Mishra). Sure it makes sense to start with a bowler who has scalped 12 wickets in the previous two innings and may have given different result; but there is no denying the team management would have had their own reasons and plans and gave their best. The bowlers were on the money for most part of the day, conceded minimal extras and tried every trick.
A commentator, much like a critic, must share his views and knowledge but not to the point of forcibly making a player, captain or team management look stupid. But that’s one part. Lets come to the other two glaring instances.
Few overs later, just as India were sweating hard to stop a rampaging Jermaine Blackwood, Cheteshwar Pujara dived in front to take a brilliant catch centimetres off the ground. Indian hopes floated alive as the players got pumped up again. But not our Sanju Manju. For the next few minutes he went on and on about Blackwood’s innings and forgot to acknowledge the Pujara catch even once – later the co-commentator (think it was Ian Bishop) did!
Lets rewind a bit to Day 2. I recall when Wriddhiman Saha got out after a well compiled 47, Sanjay was all praise for the bowler Jason Holder (who was in between an excellent spell) and West Indies but didn’t have a single word entire test on how the gritty contributions from Saha & Ashwin are giving India the chance to play five bowlers at the Caribbean Islands. Nor did he mention about Saha’s need to convert good starts to bigger scores. He just forgot Saha! At that instant I put this as a comment on a social media post and the hatred (unfair) for Manjrekar rampantly poured in.
Make no mistake Sanju Manju is an excellent commentator and brings interesting aspects and insights, instead of just saying what’s visible to the common eye. My request to Sanjay is to respect, appreciate and acknowledge the Indian efforts just as much. Even in the Kingston test, India ruled eight of the eleven sessions they got to play, and were unlucky to be denied four more sessions due to rain. They were the dominant team and were denied victory by a rare instance – four middle order batsmen (Nos. 5,6,7,8) getting fifties, has happened only for the fifth time in history of test cricket.