The venue for the evening was the CK Nayudu Hall at the historic Cricket Club of India (CCI) and the occasion was the 9th edition of the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture. The evening began by observing a minute’s silence in memory of former Indian Captain Ajit Wadekar who passed away recently.
Former Mumbai Skipper Shishir Hattangadi, who was the master of the ceremony began the proceedings by recalling that Dilip Sardesai was particularly fond of the speaker for the evening - Sanjay Manjrekar. Sardesai would often inquire about Manjrekar’s progress.
Old-timers would recall that Sardesai was a key contributor in India’s famous victory in the Caribbean Islands in 1970-71. He was the second highest run-getter after the great Sunil Gavaskar in that series.
So, when you are at a place where the air breathes in history of Indian Cricket, anecdotes are bound to follow. And the speaker Sanjay Manjrekar had many to share.
Sardesai had a keen eye for talent
Before starting his formal talk, Manjrekar mentioned how Dilip Sardesai had a keen eye to spot talent. Apparently, Sardesai would need to observe a batsman in nets for only some time to judge their caliber. Naturally, the batsman who had been asked to leave to nets after only a few balls would get worried waiting for the next chance. To such batsmen, Sardesai’s response was “Arre baba tumi to certainties” (You are a certainty in the team).
‘Moharaja’ was instrumental in regaining the confidence of the Indian fans
Manjrekar’s talk was about his journey in Indian Cricket and he assured the audience that it wouldn’t be long. Manjrekar, who made his debut post the Gavaskar-era did not have a great time in the team initially as he could sense a divide within the team. Thankfully, this wall of divide came down by the time he hung up his boots. He admired how Sourav Ganguly whom he called “Moharaja” was instrumental in regaining the confidence of the Indian fans post the dark phase of match-fixing. And under Ganguly, the 2003 World Cup finals was a significant landmark for ‘Team India’. The likes of Viru, Dravid, Sachin, VVS & Ganguly himself stitched together a golden chapter for Indian Cricket.
Dhoni brought in a sense of calmness in the team
As per Manjrekar, the next phase in Indian Cricket was the phase of fearlessness infused by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The wicket-keeper batsman also brought in a sense of calmness in the team. And winning the 2011 World Cup was special as it came in front of the home crowd. Manjrekar who himself had the experience of playing the World Cup at home in 1996 said that the burden of expectation can become difficult at times.
Day-night Test matches is the way forward
Talking about today’s cricket and test matches, Manjrekar was of the opinion that test cricket is a tough nut to crack and the new age Indian cricketer may find it too hard, especially when you have more financially lucrative options like the Indian Premier League (IPL). His solution to improve test cricket viewership lay in day-night test matches. He urged the boards to take the bull by the horns and do what is best for the game rather getting bogged down by the opinion of top players. Committee of Administrators (CoA) member Diana Edulji who was present at the venue looked interested at this suggestion.
"Just put the cricket fan above all, and we may just be Ok”
Slow-overrate is another issue which worried Manjrekar and he said that it is not good for the game and the spectators. He concluded by saying, “Just put the cricket fan above all, and we may just be Ok”.
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