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Down the memory lane – Legacy of a “I’m perfect” cricketer

While playing competitive cricket between 1979 -1989, I was groomed to admire and aim for perfection –  starting with my first coach Ramakant Achrekar (Achrekar Sir to all of us (Dronacharya Award winner and coach to the God of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar ), my cricketing god father Ramnath Kenny ( Test batsman – ) or my mentor V S Patil- (Coach to Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar- ) better known as Marshall in Mumbai cricketing circles. Having played for Dadar Union at the club level, gave me the opportunity to watch and imbibe the commitment to the game of the legendary Sunil Gavaskar at close quarters. While lots has already been written about most of the names mentioned above, in this piece, I’m going to focus on Sanjay Manjrekar.

Sanjay Manjrekar was my school team captain at IES Eng. Medium school. Then he was a short but compact batsman who would also at times enjoy bowling leg-spin. In school, everyone remembers him as one who idolised Sunil Gavaskar and someone who would fuss over his Gray-Nicolas English willow bat. He led our school team to victory in the inter-schools U-14 Giles Shield ( 1979/80) played at the then coveted Wankhede stadium.

IES Eng Med School cricket team with the Giles shield:LR sitting : Shirish Joshi (VC), Bhor Sir , Sinha Madam, Lotlikar Sir, Sanjay Manjrekar (C) , Sabnis sir, Shinde Sir with the Giles Shield and Best Batsman Trophy won by Sanjay.
LR standing : Amit Tendulkar, Shantanu Chitgopkar, Sameer Talpade, Anil Lele, Atul Choudhary, Sachin Tipnis, Vivek Mohile, Prasad Apsangikar, Salil Datar, Parag Paigankar
School team at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai after our win. Sanjay is in the centre and I’m 2nd to his left.

I got to know him a bit more only later when I joined Podar college. Once again, he was leading our Sr College team in the Inter collegiate cricket tournament. Right since school days, I had seen Sanjay always focus on being a perfectionist. Now in college, under the watchful eyes of our coach Marshal Patil, I got to see at very close quarters his single-minded focus and dedication as he would bat for long hours at the nets. While playing his trademark copy book style, he used this time to improve his array of strokes as well as hone his technical skills by not giving an inch to any bowler even in the nets. I saw him transform from a compact to a solid batsman. Our coach gave me an opportunity as well to have long knocks at the nets. Watching Sanjay up close and also being with him rubbed off on me. I too started taking my practice sessions with the same seriousness to build a rigour in my game. In my first year itself, I got selected in the Mumbai Varsity side for the All India Rohinton Baria Trophy which was led by Sanjay Manjrekar. That year was 1984/85.

As you will see later, 1984/85 turned out to be the year of transformation in more ways than one for quite a few cricketers viz Mohammed Azarhuddin, Sanjay Manjrekar, Rajdeep Sardesai and Maninder Singh. This was the year when Mohammed Azarhuddin made his test debut scoring a record 3 consecutive hundreds against the touring English side. There was a lot of hype around our team as our team had sons of 2 illustrious Test cricketers – Rajdeep Sardesai s/o Dilip Sardesai and Sanjay Manjrekar s/o Vijay Manjrekar.  The tournament was held in M S University campus in Baroda. We camped in their hostel rooms (5 to a room with all sleeping with a hold-all on the floor) within the campus for nearly a month. Rajdeep and Sanjay both were my roommates. Batting at number 3, Sanjay leveraged this tournament to launch his career as he brought all his batting and leadership skills to the fore. In the entire tournament he led from the front as he very methodically built his innings match after match. He scored 6 hundreds on the trot. I latched onto this opportunity to prove myself and establish my position as a solid middle order batsman, scoring around 400 plus runs at an average of 50+. This got me a berth in the West Zone Varsity side for the Vizzy Trophy. Unfortunately for Rajdeep, he could not make a mark in this tournament. He later decided to focus on his other passion – initially law, then newspaper reporting and eventually turned to become a leading media anchor, political analyst and also an author with 5 books already under his belt . That year Mumbai University eventually lifted the Rohinton Baria Trophy for supremacy in Inter Varsity Cricket for the first time after 10 years. The last was in 1974 when the Mumbai Varsity team included Dilip Vengsarkar.

Mumbai University team – Winners of Rohinton Baria Trophy. Sanjay sitting in the centre, Rajdeep Sardesai standing with X on his T shirt, Im sitting on extreme right. Photo source- Imperfect – Autobiography by Sanjay Manjrekar;
35 years later at a nostalgic get together . For those interested in some more trivia on Varsity cricket click on the url below :

Subsequently, Sanjay also captained the West Zone Varsity team in the Vizzy Trophy. We clashed with North Zone lead by Maninder Singh, a Test discard then. He was out to prove himself and determined to make a comeback into the Test side. He turned in a 9/91 performance with his left arm spin, in our first innings giving them an edge with a 20 run lead. However, Sanjay marshalled his resources well and we came from behind to beat them with 3 wickets to spare and lift the Vizzy Trophy.

By then, Sanjay had arrived on the national stage. Immediately he got picked in the star-studded Mumbai Ranji team which included Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarksar, Ravi Shastri.

After an action-packed season, Sanjay still had one final match to go, to make a perfect ending to his dream season. It was the finals of our inter-collegiate cricket tournament. Since Sanjay so far had a dream season, we were fancied as the favorites in our title clash against Mithibai College. Unfortunately for us, Murphy’s Law reared its head and it turned out to be the only game of the season in which our Mr. Perfect failed to click. Sanjay had a concentration lapse as he stepped out to a left arm spinner only to miss the line and get stumped. As Sanjay got out early, our batting collapsed, and we ended the season as runners up. Ironically, it was an “imperfect” ending to his college cricket.

After the 1984/85 season, I made amends in 1986/87, as I went on to lead my college team to victory as we lifted the inter collegiate trophy.

Podar Sr. College Cricket Team and V S Patil with the Winners Trophy. Memento miniature bat signed by all the team members.

I too got my break as I was selected to the Mumbai Ranji team in 1987/88 – the same year that Sachin Tendulkar too was selected, only to be groomed for the next season. He made his Ranji debut the next year and a legend was born. After this my journey took a different turn. I opted for a management degree over continuing to play competitive cricket.

Sanjay right through his playing days went on to impress one and all with his penchant to perfect his technique. However, as confessed by Sanjay at the launch of his autobiography titled Imperfect, he realised “chasing perfection was something like chasing a ghost or a mirage”. In his second innings as a commentator and a T V presenter, he seems to have made amends. He has realised that while idolising or having a role model helps, but one can really do much better or enjoy more by actually perfecting being more of yourself.

Cheers !!!

Published by Salil Datar

Eager beaver , enthusiastic but amateur blogger !!

10 thoughts on “Down the memory lane – Legacy of a “I’m perfect” cricketer

  1. Salil , nicely written..
    Taking us down the memory lane..Sanjay was truly class apart and we all always looked upto him..You also had many good batting partnerships with Sanjay in College n Varsity games and you too had a wonderful tournament in 1985..


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