Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Cricket World Cup 2019: Ravindra Jadeja ripped me apart, says Sanjay Manjrekar

Former player-turned-commentator attempts to draw a line under fiery exchange with all-rounder

India all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja was brilliant with bat, ball and on the field against New Zealand on Wednesday. Lee Smith / Reuters
India all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja was brilliant with bat, ball and on the field against New Zealand on Wednesday. Lee Smith / Reuters

Sanjay Manjrekar doffed his hat to Ravindra Jadeja after the all-rounder put on a brilliant show with bat, ball and in the field during India's Cricket World Cup semi-final defeat to New Zealand on Wednesday.

Jadeja scored 77 from 59 balls, including four sixes and as many boundaries, to take India within touching distance of what would have been an unlikely victory for the 1983 and 2011 champions. The southpaw also took 1-34 in a tight 10-over spell aside from holding on to superb catches to dismiss captain Kane Williamson and wicketkeeper Tom Latham.

Shortly after the game ended, which the Black Caps won by 18 runs, former India player-turned-commentator Manjrekar appeared on the ICC's commentary feed unable to hold back his admiration for Jadeja while making a candid concession that the all-rounder had proved him wrong just days after he had called him a "bits and pieces cricketer" on Twitter.

It was a remark the thin-skinned Jadeja did not take kindly to as he snapped back on Twitter and demanded respect. He had, after all, played twice the number of one-day internationals Manjrekar had (Jadeja: 153 and counting; Manjrekar: 74).

Manjrekar, a former middle-order batsman in the 1980s and 90s, apparently took down the tweet after facing backlash from followers. But he made light of the situation on Wednesday, telling fellow commentators: "By bits and pieces of sheer brilliance, he's ripped me apart on all fronts."

Manjrekar had made his observation about Jadeja while picking his own brains on who should play in last week's final group game between India and Sri Lanka. While the remark was not entirely unfounded (more on this below), it got him into trouble in various quarters - including former England captain, the infamously-pesky Michael Vaughan.

Days after his terse exchange with Jadeja, Manjrekar put out what he thought the Indian XI might look like for the semi-final fixture against New Zealand, which included the left-hander's name. To this, the Ashes-winning captain tweeted: “I see you have picked that bits and pieces cricketer !!!."

Following a series of tweets, Manjrekar clarified it was not his preferred XI but one he expected would be picked regardless.

But Vaughan, seemingly tickled by the entire episode, trolled Manjrekar during the game even as Jadeja was impressing on the field. He said: “Bloody hell Bits & Piece can Spin it ....”

Moments later, Vaughan revealed he had been blocked by Manjrekar.

Then England captain Michael Vaughan, left, with the Ashes in 2005, is busy riling up current and former players. Chris Young / PA Wire
Then England captain Michael Vaughan, left, with the Ashes in 2005, is busy riling up current and former players. Chris Young / PA Wire

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'Jadeja must prove Manjrekar wrong': My take on The Cricket Pod

The episode reminds me of the spat between Andrew Flintoff and Michael Atherton seven years ago, when Flintoff launched a scathing attack on the former England captain for having the audacity to criticise teammate Alastair Cook, because Cook was 10 times the player Atherton was in his pomp.

More recently, at this very World Cup of course, Jonny Bairstow had a similar exchange of words with another former captain-turned-commentator, Michael Vaughan.

Now, on the one hand, I understand where current cricketers are coming from. They are under the pump all the time, everywhere, and it can get stressful being the object of constant attention - especially when a big tournament comes along.

It is also fair to say both Manjrekar and Vaughan, who have jobs to do in their new avatars as media men, have gone over the top with their comments from time to time in the past. They have a beast to feed, after all.

But for players to start comparing their stats with those of the former players only shows them up to be thin-skinned and immature. Alpha men competing at the highest level comparing their “bat” sizes ... how petulant can one possibly be?

Seemingly incensed by Michael Vaughan's remarks, England opener Jonny Bairstow has snapped back into form. Martin Rickett / PA Wire
Seemingly incensed by Michael Vaughan's remarks, England opener Jonny Bairstow has snapped back into form. Martin Rickett / PA Wire

Besides, there is nothing demeaning about being a ‘bits and pieces’ cricketer. Gavin Larsen, Chris Harris and Robin Singh all had successful careers being ‘bits and pieces’ cricketers. But the fact Manjrekar’s comment annoyed Jadeja shows that somewhere deep down he is not altogether happy with the direction his career has taken. Perhaps for good reason. For all of Jadeja’s achievements, there is little doubt he could have accomplished more – certainly with the bat – had he perhaps shown ambition, determination and single-mindedness.

What Jadeja should be doing in response is going out there, competing and showing Manjrekar what his worth is, or should be. Which is why I loved the response Bairstow gave Vaughan who had earlier criticised the batsman for having a “negative and pathetic mindset”. He simply scored two centuries on the trot to win back-to-back matches for England against India and New Zealand no less.

One thing’s for sure: if Jadeja succeeds in raising his game, like Bairstow did, there would be no one happier than Manjrekar himself, for he is a passionate lover of the game and a true patriot. The question is whether Jadeja is hungry enough to do just that?

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Updated: July 13, 2019 05:23 PM

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