Imran, Sanjay and the Straight Drive

During the last India-Pakistan series that conlcuded in Pakistan a few months ago, Ten Sports came up with a studio show called “Straight Drive. It had an impressive lineup of experts, the great Imran Khan and Nasser Hussain to name a few. They both are great thinkers of the game, an attribute that they must have inherited from their cricket playing skills coupled by the experience. So things like good, valid arguments, reading the fine print etc could be expected and so it was. In particular, Imran Khan’s argument about Irfan Pathan’s bowling stance (and the position of his thumb at the point of delivery) turned out to be a valid one, an observation even the best of the experts would go on to acknowledge as one of the finest ever made from the media.

Another thing that Imran Khan stated, reinstating it throughout, was for Younis Khan to bat higher in the order. Younis had been in great form and treated Indian bowlers like they were club players. It made no sense to bring him lower down the order. Furthermore, it was important that the experienced players take up responsibility and face the heat, rather than sending the “young studs”, up the order to face the likes of Irfan Pathan and Anil Kumble. The argument fell on deaf ears, invariably, till the end of the series. When they implemented what the great pathan had said, the results changed for the better.

In fact, such was the influence of Imran’s words that coach Greg Chappell, in an interview, acknowledged Imran’s suggestions/tips as something that could be substituted for a bowling coach! He may have said it lightly but to even mention it in that manner shows the worth of Imran Khan’s comments.

All said and done, I think, it would have been fair to expect a never before insight of the game. When Imran Khan talks the world listens. It has to. But it was Sanjay Manjrekar, at least to me, who was the surprise in the show.

But Sanjay? The former Indian middle order batsman who once was expected to lead the Indian team has been a terrific host. He does not put his own little piece of greatness in the talk show, he does not have his own theories. Basically, he doesn’t act smart. On the contrary, he accepts where he can’t argue. Sometimes he even listens like a student. He doesn’t fake his accent or try to use complicated words. In fact, a couple of days back he did something that prompted me to write this post. After the pitch report of the first day of the ongoing test match against West Indies, the first ever to happen at the newly constructed St.Kitts cricket ground, our host, with a grin accepted that he failed to understand a few english words! They “bounced” over him, he admitted. One word, in particular, was something he did not understand at all. One of the experts on the show, Ian Chappell, repeated the word (it was “perambulate”, its meaning here) and explained the meaning, on the show. When was the last time you witnessed a host like that on Indian television?

Meanwhile, as I write this, the Indian team has just put life in a test match that looked a drag. They have just given the opposition a lead of 219 runs. There it goes.

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