Sourav Ganguly (left) and Sanjay Manjrekar later became good friends but that wasn’t the case in India’s tour of Australian in 1991-92   © Getty Images
Sourav Ganguly (left) and Sanjay Manjrekar later became good friends but that wasn’t the case in India’s tour of Australian in 1991-92 © Getty Images

A lot has been spoken about a teenaged Sourav Ganguly’s attitude during his first tour. India were touring Australia in 1991-92 when Ganguly, picked as a batsman, was reduced to a net bowler. The tour lasted for four months and included the 1992 World Cup, which Ganguly wasn’t a part of. However, in the first three months, he was there for the five-Test series and the Benson & Hedges tri-series that involved West Indies as the third team.

Tale of two youngsters

After warming the benches for two months with almost no batting practice, Ganguly was handed his international debut against a tail-up West Indies attack led by Malcolm Marshall at Brisbane. Ganguly was LBW for 3.

(Trivia: Ganguly is nicknamed Dada. 16 years later, in 2008, another Bengal batsman, Manoj Tiwary, nicknamed Chota Dada made his international debut at the same venue and scored 2)

This remained Ganguly’s sole international outing in the tour. However, Sanjay Manjekar, in his mid-20s, was among the stars of the side. Into his fifth year of international cricket, Manjrekar started the tour with a Test batting average of 48.5. In ODIs, it was almost 44. He had just scored his maiden ODI hundred against the visiting South Africans.

Manjrekar finished with an ODI career strike rate of 64.3, but that 105 at Delhi against the likes of Allan Donald, Richard Snell, Craig Matthews, Brian McMillan and Clive Rice came off 82 balls. It’s another story that South Africa chased down 288.

Australia was different. By the time India returned home from Australia, Manjrekar’s reputation had taken a massive beating. He got 197 runs from the 5 Tests at 21.88. He didn’t cross fifty even once in nine innings and scored the runs at an agonising strike rate of 34. In the tri-series, his 188 runs came at 18.80 at a strike rate of 46 (in ODIs!). In the World Cup, he got 154 runs at 25.66. The averages dipped to 40.71 and 34.05.

During the tour, Manjrekar vented out his frustration on the rookie, Ganguly. Ganguly recalls the dressing down he received from Manjrekar in A Century Is Not Enough“Sanjay Manjrekar, in particular, must have felt very disappointed. He had come to this tour with a huge reputation, having scored against some fearsome attacks in Pakistan and the West Indies. But by the end of the series, his reputation and confidence had taken a severe beating. As the defeats piled up, Sanjay, a perfectionist, had worry written all over his face. He also seemed frustrated over his failure.”

However, Ganguly did not see what was coming his way. Was it anger over his own failures or insecurity over the presence of another talented prodigy? It did dent Ganguly’s spirits, who spent most of his free time in Sachin Tendulkar and Subroto Banerjee’s room. Tendulkar was in his age group and had known him since Under-14 days, whereas it was with Banerjee that the introvert Ganguly could chatter in Bengali.

A Sachin Tendulkar gesture that welcomed Sourav Ganguly to ‘the club of big boys’
A Sachin Tendulkar gesture that welcomed Sourav Ganguly to ‘the club of big boys’

“One day after a side game, he [Manjrekar] called me to his room and gave me a lashing. He told me that I was not behaving properly and that my attitude needed to improve, now that I was an international cricketer. I was completely taken aback and did not respond. After fifteen minutes in his room, I left silently with a dark cloud hanging over my head. What was he talking about? And why?” Ganguly recalls.

“Two months had gone by in this tour and I was struggling to get even a proper hit at the nets. From a batsman I had been reduced to a net bowler helping our batsmen practice. So where had I gone wrong? Today Sanjay is a good friend and a loving fellow commentator but to this day I have not understood why he behaved so differently with a youngster on his first tour. I certainly did not deserve the dressing-down.”

Ganguly and Manjrekar are popular faces in the commentary circuit but the former has never asked his senior on why he did what he did.

Ganguly was dropped and forgotten by the national selectors for the next four years. He and Rahul Dravid made it to the England tour in 1996, and both never looked back. Manjrekar, then 31, retired from international cricket later that year. Manjrekar has no qualms in admitting that the rise of Ganguly and Dravid led to his retirement.

“He [Sourav] was not in the team on the back of big scores but was picked because he had talent. Just the way he batted in those conditions, we all thought he will have a good series and his success eventually in the Test series didn’t take us by surprise. Dravid looked like he was destined to play for India, but the way they batted in the series, I knew my time was up,” Manjrekar would later write in his autobiography Imperfect.