Dear Sanjay Manjrekar, Offensive Opinion Isn’t Good Commentary
“MS Dhoni divides cricket fans with his style of play, while Sanjay Manjrekar unites them to mute Television sets every time he comes on air”, was a meme that was shared on Twitter just after India’s loss to England in the ongoing cricket World Cup 2019.
The commentator, speaking of Dhoni’s lack of aggression in the tournament, had taken things a bit too far by stating that the wicket-keeper “does not put his wicket on the line as much in the big games.”
Manjrekar was quick to be trolled by cricket loyalists, who have had enough of his condescending rants, biased opinion and his extremely critical remarks in the last few years.
Over the years, the former Mumbai player has made a name for himself as a veteran commentator whose vile hatred and jibes at players does not allow him to take an objective stand in the commentary box. This has, in turn, not gone down well with the fans and the players themselves, who have often taken to Twitter to voice their opinion on his excessive and needless criticism.
Ravindra Jadeja is the latest cricketer to criticise Manjrekar, after the latter termed the all-rounder a “bits and pieces cricketer” before India’s clash with Bangladesh in the World Cup. Asked whether Jadeja could replace either Yuzvendra Chahal or Kuldeep Yadav in the playing eleven after the spin duo went for runs against England, Manjrekar was quick to reply, “I am not a big fan of bits and pieces players which Jadeja is at this point of his career.”
The remark did not go down too well with the all-rounder, who thrashed Manjrekar for his “verbal diarrhea.”
Jadeja has been criticised for living in his own bubble, and what Manjrekar said is not exactly wrong - the Saurashtra player averages less than 30 with the bat and more than 35 with the ball after 151 ODIs, and has been unable to display his skills on the big stage. However, what has irked sports fans in the country is the manner in which he presents his strong opinion, that often come across as rude.
As an analyst and a broadcaster, who is being heard by millions, having a filter for his thoughts and knowing what the line is without rambling is one of the basic code of conducts. Criticise but without sounding brash. Pick out the technical deficiencies and analyze their game without being disrespectful and having a “know-it-all” air. And Manjrekar seems to be doing just what a fan does not want a commentator to do.
Make atrocious remarks just because he is in a position to.
While Jadeja’s tweet, where he spoke about the fact that he has played twice the number of matches as Manjrekar, and hence should not be criticized on that premise is problematic, the sentiments were of a hurt man, who was needlessly called out despite being one of the top fifteen players from the country.
To be fair to Jadeja, he has not been a constant in the team as well, often getting dropped or picked according to the conditions, with the lack of consistency in game time sure to hamper his rhythm.
This is, however, not the first time that Manjrekar has sent fans in a frenzy with his remarks. By calling Sachin Tendulkar the “elephant in the room” way back in 2005 for his average of 26 in 27 innings when India would bat second, to stating that Yuvraj Singh’s comeback after cancer in the Indian team was “hasty” and “emotional” in 2012, Manjrekar is someone who has always been quick to jump to conclusions.
Tendulkar, after a few innings back in 2005, had regained the spring in his step soon after as he was back playing his front foot drives and cover drives, while Yuvi won the Man of the Match award a few games after his comeback in a T20 game against South Africa for scoring 21 in 15 balls and picking up 2 wickets in his 4 overs.
Back in 2012, Manjrekar had tweeted that he did not rate Virat Kohli very highly, and that he did not belong to Test cricket. This after the current Indian skipper had a dismal debut game against West Indies, where he scored only 4 and 15. He took six innings to get to his first Test fifty but a slump followed soon after. It was during this time that Manjrekar, not rating Kohli highly, took to Twitter to write, “Give Virat 1 more Test..just to be sure he does not belong here.” In the next three innings against Australia, Kohli’s scores read 44, 75 and 116 as he emerged as one of the youngsters to watch out for after that tour. Kohli currently has a Test average of 53.76 with 25 hundreds in the Test format.
In another controversy, he took to Twitter to lash out at tennis player Sania Mirza, who had shared the news of her completing 80 consecutive weeks as the number 1 player in the world.
“No 1 doubles player you mean”, Manjrekar had been quick to point out.
Bordering on offensive, him belittling the achievements of a champion by not realizing that she had quit singles tennis due to her injury concerns and not apologizing for his crass remarks spoke volumes about his ignorance on the matter.
In April, the commentator had used the word “greed” to describe the conflict of interest issues rising from Ganguly, Laxman and Sachin’s roles in their IPL teams and the BCCI’s CAC.
From comparing Sunil Narine’s IPL heroics to W.G Grace’s Test feats (for context, the KKR “all-rounder” has a batting average of 17.87 and a bowling average of 23.31 in the IPL, whereas Grace played way back in the 1880s and ended with a batting average 32.29 after 22 games and a bowling average of 26.22) to displaying his biased views in the IPL final this year when Mumbai Indians took on Chennai Super Kings by jumping the gun and stating that Dhoni had been run out in a tight call even as the other commentators felt otherwise, Manjrekar’s views and his one-liners have often forced fans to mute their TV sets when he is on air. Recently, a fan even mailed the ICC about his lack of professionalism!
In his autobiography “Imperfect”, Manjrekar had stressed on the importance of staying neutral and not hesitating to criticize the greats of the game.
“If you played the game honestly and never shirked from a challenge, you did have a moral right to talk as an expert on the game even if you hadn’t captained India or played in some 100-odd Test matches. That is why I never shy away from criticizing the greats of the game.”
But while criticizing a player is fine, offending them by taking it too far is just not acceptable
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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