Book Review : Sanjay Manjreakar's "Imperfect"
The public life of Sanjay Manjrekar, the former Indian Cricketer and commentator, can be divided into three parts. The first would be his initial foray in International Cricket, when he played 16 Tests and averaged over 48. Only two of those 16 Tests were at home and he clearly established himself as one of India’s most reliable batsmen against pace in alien conditions. This included a century in West Indies, and a century and a double century in Pakistan. These were the two countries who had plenty of fast bowling resources during those times. In the Pakistan series (Sachin Tendulkar’s debut series), Sanjay scored 569 runs in 4 Test matches. It was not a small achievement for a newcomer against Imran, Wasim and Waqar.
The second part of his career started with his loss of form during the 1991-92 Australian tour. This period saw him struggling for runs and eventually being dropped from the team. He made numerous comeback attempts, but none were too successful. His confidence level went down. Finally, he retired at a relatively young age of 32. In a sense, his International career was a story of unfulfilled promise.
The third part was about his current avatar in the form of a Cricket host and commentator. He saw this as an opportunity to remain in the limelight and as a financial security. He has his fair share of detractors. However, it is also an established fact that Media Production houses are working with him and he has a following as well. His Autobiography “Imperfect” elaborates on all these three phases of his career, including his formative years.
One thing which comes out from his writing is his forthcoming nature. Sanjay was son of famous Indian Cricketer, Vijay Manjrekar. So, that way, he was brought up in a Cricket environment. However, that is half the truth. He described openly how his father failed to handle his post retirement life, away from limelight. The frustration of being away from the game and attention, caught up with him. His family had to bear the brunt of it. Sanjay had courage to discuss openly about the failings of his famous father. Of course, he had been privileged to get exposure to so many cricketers early in his life, due to his father. He mentioned that he got attracted to the fame of those players and wanted to be like one of them in the future.
The other highlight of the book was his description of different aspects of Mumbai cricket. The “Khadoos” cricket gharana, as Mumbai Cricket is famous for, was described aptly through different incidents. He realized early that a Mumbai Cricketer can fail, but cannot shy away from a difficult situation. This helped him immensely in future life. In fact, he clearly mentioned that he felt a much better team spirit in the Mumbai team than the National squad. The senior junior divide in the Indian team during those days came up multiple times in the book.
It would be surprising for many to know that Sanjay’s Cricket idol has been Imran Khan. Although his initial hero was Sunil Gavaskar, Imran’s personality and his unyielding leadership qualities won him over. There are many adorable incidents in the book regarding his interactions with Imran. He spent quite a few pages in the book talking about his idol and how India could have benefitted if they had a leader like him.
Sanjay also delved into details of the troublesome period of his career when he was unable to score enough runs to stay in the Indian team. One of the interesting points he mentioned was that he thought too much about being perfect. Even if he had scored a hundred, he would keep on thinking about those one or two shots which could have been played better. So, when the time came to do some adjustments, as runs dried up, he felt more and more uncomfortable to make any changes. The changes were getting him out more quicker and he went into a negative spiral. Also, he mentioned that his eagerness for perfect batting made him lose sight of the end objective of batting which is to score runs.
He also discussed his foray into the Commentary and how he has learnt some of the tricks of the trade. Some of the technical details around live matches and shows are quite interesting to read. It also shows that while everything appears smooth on TV, there are lot of backroom struggles involved to make it happen. The book ends with a list of Sanjay’s most favourite commentators and his experience while sharing the microphone with them. As the name of the book suggests, he is still “Imperfect” as a commentator. Let us hope that he would continue to improve without bothering too much about not being perfect.