Ace Indian cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle has been unceremoniously sacked from the current IPL Edition-9, without assigning any courtesy of reason. Why? Is it due to the commentator indirectly jabbed by the Super star Amitabh Bachchan in his tweet, or the purported verbal wrangle with a Vidarbha Cricket Association official during a recent T-20 World-cup match at Nagpur, or some “unnamed” senior India players asked for his removal? Toe the line or get booted, seems the BCCI mantra. Whatever, it is an affront to the qualified commentator’s dedication. Can Harsha guide Amitabh Bachchan how to act? Conversely, can the Big-B teach Harsha how to “comment”?
The absence of Harsha will be viewers’ loss. In the words of Sourav Ganguly, “To be honest, I really enjoy hearing you talk about the game. So much passion, so much in touch with the game.” Leading sports website “Cricinfo” in 2008 voted Harsha Bhogle as their favourite commentator, leaving Ravi Shastri, Richie Benaud, Sunil Gavaskar, Sanjay Manjrekar … below. The test of professionalism is not to lose objectivity and go overboard. Will BCCI explain? Excellence doesn’t have to pay second fiddle to the incompetent.
Harsha, a victim of BCCI politics, is an iconic commentator, not a cheerleader. In a nation where nearly everyone is a self-proclaimed cricket expert, it takes special skill to remain at the top of the game for such long time. While Harsha is well endowed with data and does his home work well before talking, he adds colour and content even during the dull moments of the game.
News produced in sports differs from other genres of journalism like crime, politics and business. Many sporting events receive telecast and the viewers enjoy the live action and commentary of their favourite teams/players. The commentator is left with his skills to bring different views, perspectives, stories, interpretations, statistics, illustrations and analysis. Harsha has been dutifully doing his assignments, match after match.
There is nothing that has been specified for what he has to apologise or atone for. If this is the treatment for merit, others better beware. If there is one voice you associate every ball delivered in a cricket match played by India, it is Harsha Bhogle, who is articulate, witty and knows what and when to say.
His way with words and knack of coining memorable phrases made him popular. When Michael Clarke seemed reluctant to walk away after he got out, Harsha comments: “I think he is waiting for tomorrow’s newspaper to declare him out”. On the destructive batting style of Chris Gayle: “6 and 4 seem to have become a new binary code for this man.”
As the widely accepted face and voice of Indian cricket, he is the only successful commentator who has not played the game at the highest level, yet speaks more sensibly than half the lot behind the microphone. Adam Gilchrist aptly described him as India’s first “non-playing cricket celebrity.”
He has captured the entire gamut of Indian cricket – the advent of Dhoni, the art of coaching, BCCI’s money-mindedness, cricketers shooting commercials just before a match, nail-biting finish of many IPL clashes… A master at evoking the moods of the game, his insights are as marvellous as his foresight.
Many journalists and former sports persons abdicate their duty to report honestly because they apprehend upsetting important people or damage their own career trajectory. His commentaries celebrate the game and its legends and take you back in time – to the glory days and to some unfortunate days. Harsha remains the thinking brain. Take it, or leave it.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)