Sanjay Manjrekar was known for his copy-book approach during his playing days. After hanging up his boots, he has been able to build a charismatic profile as a sports broadcasting professional.
Being someone who doesn’t mind expressing his thoughts, which sometimes may have inadvertently stirred up a hornet’s nest, his views have always managed to keep him in the limelight.
In an interview with Moneycontrol, the former India batsman spoke at length about this year’s IPL, mindset of players, his approach towards commentary and its various intricacies.
Q: How do you think the COVID-19 factor and staying in a bio-bubble going to play out on the psyche of cricketers?
A: I don’t think it is going to be an issue with the players. Even when they are playing in India, they can’t venture out much because they are going to be mobbed wherever they go. They have had a break for a long time, which is unusual. When the IPL will begin, they will be very excited to be back in action. TV viewership will hit the roof because people haven’t watched cricket for a long time and players will be aware of the fans watching them closely. Players may be a little rusty to begin with but they won’t take much time to get into the groove.
A: It is always about the top stars like Dhoni, Virat and Rohit. In India, the individuals galvanise the fanfare around the game. Also, the IPL is about fan loyalty and how everyone gets into specific details about stats.
A: Keeping in mind the average score in the UAE, which is 155 and the fact that 200 has never been chased in a T20 match there, it is expected to be slightly low-scoring but we may see high–scoring matches in the beginning. My feeling is that the IPL is likely to be played mostly in the third gear.
Q: Since the razzmattazz will be missing from this year’s edition, how do you think the players will react to playing in a completely different environment?
A: Yes, the players will find it a bit odd and different. As players, when we played Ranji Trophy cricket after international matches, we found it very odd. But they should know that they cannot afford to slip up on the performance parameter because they will be monitored closely and I don’t think the intensity levels will drop because of lack of crowd at the stadium.
Q: It has been over a decade since you started out as a sportscaster. Did you have any particular idea or path in mind when you took the plunge?
A: When I called it a day as a cricketer, I had no idea what I was going to do. I had a job with Air India at that time and knew that I could depend on that. But then commentary offers came and it was kind of second nature to me, being behind the mike and talking about the game. Even as a player, I always had an opinion and analysed things. So, it was a natural progression. Very early in my life, I had decided that I am going to say things that I feel and not people want to hear. I have always felt that it is important to be honest. My thoughts and observations may not be always right but it comes from a very pure place.
Q: Do you think in the past few years, receptivity to feedback has undergone a huge transformation?
A: I think people now have more platforms to react. We, Indians, are very sensitive to criticism. The other problem is that English as a language is often misunderstood. For most people, it is not even the second language. A lot of the terms I tend to use are misunderstood. For example, when I had said that ‘Tendulkar-related’ issues are like the elephant in the room. So, that was a term that was misunderstood. People thought I was calling him a ‘white elephant’. In the case of ‘bits and pieces’, people thought it was the degradation of a player. So, if I would have said ‘non-specialist’, then I don’t think there would have had been a furore. Once Naseer Hussain had called some Indian players ‘donkeys on the field’, which is a normal English term for people who move slowly and there was a big controversy. So, that is one of the problems in making observations in English and assuming that everyone knows.
Q: The coronavirus pandemic has battered our economy. Cricket, due to its commercial standing and popularity, will be able to weather the storm. How do you think it will affect the sporting culture in the country considering the major focus of the government will be in reviving economic sentiment. Do you think the focus on sports will take a backseat?
A: Cricket might find it a bit easy to bounce back. I believe the Indian economy is very large and vibrant. The moment the restrictions were eased a bit, the activities slowly saw resumption. Staying at home is not an option and people have been compelled to venture out. I am very optimistic about India bouncing back.
A: I will be working full-time with ESPN-Cricinfo for their pre-match and post-match shows. I am also in the final stages of discussions with a news channel and will be in-house expert for a fantasy league platform. I will also be writing columns plus doing updates for an FM radio station.
Q: Will you miss not being a part of the commentary panel for this year’s edition of the IPL?
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Indian Premier League, Sanjay Manjrekar, Cricket, India
World news – AU – Interview | This IPL could be low-scoring but there will be no drop in intensity, says Sanjay Manjrekar