Clayton Murzello: Manjrekar's innings of a lifetime

Published: Jan 18, 2018, 06:16 IST | Clayton Murzello

Sanjay's book may not weigh heavy in terms of controversy, but the anecdotal gems make it an integral part of Indian cricket literature

Former Test player Sanjay Manjrekar speaks at his book launch in Colaba last week
Former Test player Sanjay Manjrekar speaks at his book launch in Colaba last week

Clayton MurzelloAt the bookshop that I worked in during my youth, I often heard the words "perennial seller". Many a time, the term sat well with Sunil Gavaskar's autobiography Sunny Days, which has run into several editions.

Gavaskar set the benchmark when it came to cricket autobiographies in this part of the world. To me, Sunny Days is the finest story ever told by an Indian cricketer and one can never get tired of re-reading the book.

The next 'kar' expected to write an autobiography was Dilip Vengsarkar, but somehow his book didn't come to fruition. Probably someday he will find the time and inclination to collaborate with a writer and publish his book.

Sachin Tendulkar didn't take too long to write his autobiography after his 2013 retirement and then, a few months ago, came the news of Sanjay Manjrekar's forthcoming book which was scooped by this newspaper.

As a sucker for cricket books, I have always held the view that penning one's story is a service to society and, hence, all cricketer-authors should take a bow. Writing on their experiences, pressures, highs and lows can inspire the next generation, apart from giving the reader a glimpse of their real world.

Manjrekar may have disappointed some readers with his conscious effort not to include a lot of spice in his 207-page effort. He has chosen not to end up being synonymous with a controversial book and that's fair enough because it's tasty alright. I am sure he will not have to deal with the clichéd accusation of opening old wounds to sell more copies.

The chapter on his late father Vijay is gripping and his descriptions of his late mother Rekha, who he dedicates his book to, are touching.

For me, one of the best aspects about Manjrekar's book is his projection of the good guys - the men who were known to come hard at their opponents on the field of play - but were noble in their own way. Like West Indian opener Desmond Haynes, who displayed his joy when Manjrekar was picked in the opening Test of the 1988-89 West Indies tour at Georgetown with a thumbs up. At Bridgetown, on the last day of the Test, Viv Richards waited for him in the parking lot just to say, "Well played, man. Keep it up." And, at the completion of the series in Jamaica, the late Malcolm Marshall waited for Manjrekar outside the dressing room to give him tips on how to adjust to English pitches.

In 1992, Manjrekar was at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) box doing an interview with Harsha Bhogle. Ian Chappell waited for him to finish and then grabbed him by the arm and asked why he wasn't employing the pull shot. He urged him to use it against Merv Hughes' short ball and "watch the fun."

Manjrekar endured some very hard times but he was always well looked after by the people who mattered. He reveals how Gavaskar waited for him at one end of Cross Maidan to come and receive a Gray-Nicolls bat he had bought for the 15-year-old batsman from England on the request of his father Vijay. And of course the tips on how to face the West Indies quicks from Gavaskar's cabin at his Nirlon office in Worli.

Sandeep Patil is another one whom Manjrekar has identified as a benefactor. Apart from car drives to Ranji Trophy practice and back, Patil was quick to spot when the junior batsman got casual during their partnerships. Patil is credited for coming into his life at the right time.

On a pleasant evening at Manjrekar's book launch in Colaba last week, Vengsarkar revealed on stage that Ravi Shastri didn't think he should be played in the opening Test of the 1988-89 West Indies tour, but Shastri was always a great supporter. As Vengsarkar spoke about that little team meeting, I was reminded of a counter question ("So you are a Manjrekar fan?") a journalist posed when Shastri spoke of Manjrekar's ability in the early 1990s. "Anyone who has seen Sanjay's knock at Barbados in 1989 would be one," said Shastri.

His and Vengsarkar's contribution has been hailed wholesomely. The anecdotal flavour in Manjrekar's book is well exemplified with the story about Shastri calling Vithal Patil from the West Indies in 1989 to congratulate their dedicated college coach on producing a "dus saal ka ghoda" for India after Manjrekar's Barbados ton. Personally, I expected a few mentions of Dadar Union Sporting Club in the book. No mention of Mumbai Ranji batsman-turned-coach and mentor Vasu Paranjape too is surprising, because it was Paranjape who convinced Shivaji Park Gymkhana-loyalist Vijay Manjrekar to let his son play for rivals Dadar Union. But then, Manjrekar's remarkable book is called Imperfect.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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