Indian cricketer turned commentator Sanjay Manjrekar spoke about why he is often in the eye of a storm when it comes to his views as a commentator in an interview with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on his Instagram Live chat series ‘Reminiscence with Ash’.
Manjrekar spoke at length about the 1996 World Cup campaign which ended with a semi-final loss, how he started playing cricket, Sachin Tendulkar’s impact on Indian team among other topics.
But the real catch in the live chat was the Mumbaikar candidly assessing his role as a commentator in a segment Ashwin called ‘heart-to-heart’.
Known for his often brutally straightforward opinions, his time in the commentary box has often come under criticism from both players and fans.
Ashwin admitted that many of the questions he received for this very guest were critical and started off by asking how he wants people to see him – a cricketer or a great broadcaster. Manjrekar, who was reportedly dropped from BCCI’s commentary panel earlier this year before cricket itself came to a halt, said that he is more likely to be remembered as a commentator than a cricketer because it has been a longer career.
But he didn’t shy away from saying that it was a combination of how he said things as well as Indian fans being uniquely invested in the game.
“I work really hard at what I do... I do virtually everything there is to do as a broadcaster. But then I say certain things which make news [laughs] some players get upset, they react and that becomes the Sanjay Manjrekar story.
“So the broadcaster and commentator is left behind and what comes out more is this guy. And the fans who adore certain cricketers who I have not complimented or been slightly critical about, then that fan club is angry. It’s not so much about me because no one has met me,” he said.
Manjrekar was involved in a couple of controversies in 2019; his ‘bits and pieces’ jibe at Ravindra Jadeja and the on-air spat with Harsha Bhogle over cricketers-turned-commentators. The former India batsman said that he is aware of his limitations and takes these things in his stride.
“I am not trying to fool anybody... I know my boundaries. That’s why I’m still around. Otherwise I would have been finished as a commentator five years ago. Because I am responsible for the way I say certain things.
“But Indian fan following is unique. I look at it positively as well. That is why Indian cricket is a billion-dollar industry. It is because of how people follow the game. It’s not so much about the game itself, but also the people. The Kohli fan, the Dhon fan, the CSK fan, these are the people who drive the market...They love somebody so much that they don’t want someone like me finding flaws in that man. That is something that comes with the job,” he added.
“So either I can shut my mouth so people like me better or...”
“You’re never going to do that,” interjected Ashiwn.
But Manjrekar used an example from his own career when he spoke about players being sensitive to cricketers.
“Players are sensitive. I used to be sensitive. When Dilip Vengsarkar criticised me in his column, I slipped a note under his door, trying to counter all his observations. So I don’t hold it against players when they react,” he said.
“The best way for players to deal with people like us is to look at us as garnish. We are unimportant. They are the players, their performances are all that matter. Nobody is going to be dropped because Manjrekar said so,” he added.
You can watch the full video here: