BJP MP and former India opening batsman Gautam Gambhir waded into the Ambati Rayudu retirement controversy by reminding the selectors that even if they combined the runs they scored in their career, it would be less than what the Hyderabad player did.
Coming on a day when a miffed Ravinder Jadeja reminded former cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar that he had scored more runs than the Star Sports commentator, it is obvious that – Do you know how many runs I have scored is the new “Jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai” in Indian cricketing circles.
Jadeja took his famous sword move to Twitter, shredding Manjrekar to pieces. He had been provoked by Manjrekar referring to him as a “bits and pieces player” and how he was not a fan of such a player in the ODI format. Jadeja retorted by rudely asking the former India middle order bat to stop his “verbal diarrhoea”. The sharpness of Jadeja’s tweet cut Manjrekar into bits and pieces.
The spat has divided cricket lovers down the middle, with some finding fault with Manjrekar’s description of Jadeja and the others panning Jadeja for being over-sensitive. In their worldview, Jadeja comparing his scoresheet with Manjrekar, a player from an era when limited overs cricket was just not what it is today, smacked of arrogance and an inability to face criticism.
The problem is that Manjrekar and commentators like him are paid to be opinionated. Not just on Star Sports that telecasts the matches live and therefore you get to hear more of ex-cricketers like Manjrekar but even on private TV news channels that hire former players to air their opinion on all and sundry. Diplomacy on air does not get you a renewal of the contract the following season. So the more controversial, the more blunt, the more uncharitable you are towards players, administrators, past and present, it is better for TRPs.
In that one sentence, Manjrekar rubbished Jadeja’s contribution to the team’s cause. He was insensitive to the player’s frame of mind as well. Remember Jadeja is the only player in the original 15 who has been a Sunil Valson so far, not having played a single match. (Valson did not get to play a single game in the 1983 World Cup.)
Didn’t Manjrekar realise that Jadeja would already be feeling low? Didn’t Manjrekar know that an all-rounder is a better word for “bits and pieces player”? Didn’t Manjrekar look at Jadeja’s track record and see how many matches he has turned around for India with his batting or wicket-to-wicket bowling?
And if Jadeja is a bits and pieces player, would Manjrekar describe Hardik Pandya in a similar manner? Or Kirti Azad who played a stellar role in the 1983 triumph? How is it that some players get the title of a “finisher” and some get rubbished as “bits and pieces”?
And does fielding count as an asset when you describe a cricketer as a “bits and pieces”’ player? Does Manjrekar not know that Jadeja is the best fielder in the Indian 15? Which is why he saves so many runs for India by being on the field as a substitute. Manjrekar comes from an era when fielding was not considered an asset and therefore does not value the hard work that goes into becoming a good one and thinks of it another bit and piece in Jadeja’s cricket.
You could argue that the cricketers have to be thick-skinned to face criticism. No, you devalue a sportsman who is representing the country. In this case, Jadeja has not even been tested in England before being condemned as a player of lesser value. Yes, the post-mortem can happen but not when India is in the midst of a World Cup campaign.
What these commentators do not realise is that it hurts. Jadeja is a champion because he is representing India, wearing India colours. He is there because he is considered better than 130 crore Indians.
A mike in hand and the power of social media has unfortunately made everyone into a selector, a cricket expert, part of a digital lynch mob. Never mind if half of those armchair critics have not graduated beyond gully cricket.
In this case, Manjrekar who already draws enough flak for his blabbering on air, has bit more than he can chew. Jadeja plays for Chennai Super Kings and the geographical fan following he enjoys has meant Manjrekar is getting it left, right and centre, virtually.