Anil Thakraney: Shredding Sanjay Manjrekar to bits and pieces

11 Jul,2019

Anil Thakraney

By Anil Thakraney

 

Sanjay Manjrekar did not enjoy a very impressive career as a batsman, especially if you compare it with that of his colleague Sachin Tendulkar, who played alongside him. He promised a lot, in fact, in the early nineties. Manjrekar used to be called a ‘technically correct batsman’ by commentators at the time, but delivered a lot less. Before walking into the sunset, Manjrekar managed to play just 37 Test matches and 74 one-day games, registering a mediocre average score and strike rate. Basically he disappeared from international cricket without much noise.

However, in his new avatar as a cricket commentator, Manjrekar’s journey has been quite noisy. He has been getting a lot of attention, most of it negative. The trolling on social media has been rabid, he has often been called a ‘panvati’ commentator, his coarse voice and poor command over English has been dissed, some of the abuse he regularly receives on Twitter is not even printable. Things got worse during the ongoing World Cup when he called all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja a ‘bits and pieces’ player, the cricketer hit back and termed it as Manjrekar’s ‘verbal diarrohea’, and of course all hell broke loose for Manjrekar.

The question to be asked is this: Would the same abuse have come Tendulkar or Ganguly’s way if they had called someone a bits and pieces player? I suspect not, having been a low achiever in his own career, Manjrekar does not command much respect from cricket fans or current players. However, does this mean he cannot speak his mind while commentating, should he be expected to always say goody-goody things about current cricketers? Is he paid to be honest about his perceptions or to be politically correct at all times?

Now, I am not a fan of Manjrekar’s commentary either, I also believe he is a bit of a hypocrite. Case in point, when ex English cricketer and current commentator Michael Vaughan made fun of Manjrekar’s ‘bits and pieces’ remark, Manjrekar promptly blocked him on Twitter. This proves while the man is ready to dish out criticism to others, he isn’t cool about some of it coming his own way.

And yet I am a firm believer that he must be allowed to freely speak his mind on air and on social media, that’s his job. If a current cricketer doesn’t like what Manjrekar has to say about him, that cricketer should learn to take it on the chin or hit back hard, as indeed Jadeja did. If sports television networks and tournament organisers gag cricket commentators, it will take us back to the days of the boring, life-less radio commentary, when commentators only reported what was happening on the cricket field and not much else, that would be a really regressive step.

Incidentally, during the current cricket World Cup, Michael Holding, the ex-West Indies bowler and now commentator, was furious with the International Cricket Council for asking him to cut down on the criticism of umpires. He reportedly said in his reply that, ‘Commentators are being more and more compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship’. This is indeed a sad development, it will not just render cricket commentary impotent, it demolishes the idea of freedom of expression.

There is a general feeling this may have been Manjrekar’s final stint as a cricket commentator. If so, that would be terribly unfair. Sack him by all means if you believe he is a poor commentator, but don’t sack him for speaking his mind, that will set a disastrous precedent and strike terror into the hearts of other commentators, it will trigger the death of honest cricket commentary.

 

Anil Thakraney is a senior journalist and commentator. Our readers would remember that he was a regular columnist in the early days of MxMIndia. Thakraney will now write a little more frequently for MxM. Khabardaar!

 

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