This is the ‘age of verbal diarrhoea’.
How can Sanjay Manjrekar be ridiculed for suffering from this ailment which has assumed universal proportions? Judging, offending, peddling fake news and false narratives is global pastime. Even Jadu was knighted for his regurgitations on Twitter, not for his three domestic triple hundreds. But the hopelessly spoilt Sir Jadeja, humongously overpaid and inordinately powerful like his other teammates, doesn’t like to be questioned.
How dare the commentators on BCCI payroll, like Sanjay, whose puking ability mirrors his batting style – correct, but constipated, call Jadeja for what he is – a ‘bits and pieces’ player in limited-overs cricket? The pundits are there to eulogise, not to expose. Wasn’t there a severe reprisal against Harsha Bhogle not long back?
Ravindra Jadeja is no Sanath Jayasuriya, Yuvraj Singh or Shakib al-Hassan. There was a buzz around him when he began. But from the promise of 2008-10, Sir Jadeja has been a real let-down, his sword dances and Sir-related comedy notwithstanding. His batting has declined over the years, although bowling (mostly in tests) has matured under Hirwani’s tutelage.
Manjrekar does not question his place in the Test side anyway, where is included as a specialist bowler. Jadu has bagged a lot of wickets on Indian dustbowls and is especially deadly in the second innings. Except for his services in fielding, which he can provide as a substitute, I don’t recall any superlative batting or bowling effort in the 150 odd ODIs or sundry T20s that he has managed to be a part of. In a way, he has been as ineffective in his ODI career as Manjrekar, despite having played twice the number of matches – as a petulant Jadu himself has pointed out.
Despite being around since 2009, Jadeja was not picked for the 2011 World Cup. In 2015, he scored 57 runs at an average of 11.20 and claimed 9 wickets. In his entire career, he has scored 10 fifties at an average of less than 30 (bolstered by 33 not outs) and picked 174 wickets at an average of 36. I still recall how he ran Pandya out in the final of Champions Trophy in 2017 and had to bear the brunt of the youngster’s anger. The tag of ‘bits and pieces’ cricketer might rile him but is not much off the mark.
Besides, Sanjay Manjrekar has his rights and privileges as a commentator. Sometimes, even caged monkeys screech at zoo visitors. One has to earn his pay. Half of Sanjay Manjrekar’s problems emanate from his innate desire to be truthful, the other half from his intellectual pretences. It can be said in favour of Sanjay that he operates with malice towards one and all, without any exceptions. He didn’t shy away from questioning Dravid during one of his prolonged slumps, or Sachin over his delayed and dramatized exit. Sanjay has also been quite forthright in his criticism of Dhoni. He has often had to eat humble pie because of his wrong predictions. In the era of paid news, pliant press and social media troll-brigades, you are not expected to speak your mind. This is where Sanjay has rubbed Jadu, MSD and the Whistlepodu brigade the wrong way.
It’s quite illogical to suggest that only those who have played 100 tests or more can have an opinion on cricket and players. Most coaches, managers and commentators would then find themselves out of their jobs. More importantly, fans shall be reduced to the status of cheerleaders. The basic premise of Jadu’s grouse is faulty – it doesn’t matter how many matches have the two of them played, what matters is if Sanjay’s contentions have merit!
Let us also not forget that Sanjay Manjrekar is not a cricket nobody. He was a technically sound batsman who scored test centuries in Bridgetown, Karachi, Lahore and Harare. His innings of 377 vs Hyderabad in the 1991 Ranji Semi-final still stands as the second-highest Indian first-class score after B.B. Nimbalkar’s 443. If someone who has spent his whole life in Vijay Manjrekar’s household, Indian and Mumbai dressing room and Commentary Box does not have the right to speak bitter truth, then who has?
Jadu should also remember that Sanjay managed to play half as many ODIs as him, despite being a reluctant cricketer. In his autobiography, Imperfect, Sanjay confessed that cricket was not his first love and he would not have become a cricketer had his dad not been a legend. With disarming honesty, Sanjay even opened up about confidence issues that he faced in the last 4-5 years of his career. Can someone who goes onto question his own obsession with technique at the cost of runs be expected to always follow omerta?
The craving and search for ‘respect’ are modern phenomena. Jadu wants to be respected for his 150 ODI outings, Sanjay for his 74 ones. Housewives want respect for sacrificing their careers, working women expect it for trying too hard. Politicians demand respect for bickering in Assembles, directors and actors assume it’s their due despite making bad films. If everyone kept giving respect, the world would become a mutual ass-licking club and truth would be the casualty. There is a thin line that separates appeasement with respect.
It’s high time Jadu realises that when he is addressed as Sir Jadeja, he is being mocked as someone who doesn’t quite walk his talk and boasts a lot. Or at best being applauded for being a cool dude. Your beard, mock Knighthood or ‘sword dance’ don’t make you a world-beater. Your IPL exploits don’t give you immunity from criticism, right or wrong. In fact, Jadu comes across as rather petty and vindictive as he performed this hatchet job to please his Lord Captain (MSD) who never dirties his own hands.
Abhinav Pancholi, IRS, Kolkata. The author is an avid sports lover with a passion for literature.
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