“Harsha Bhogle: Out”. Appeal! Beyond the Panorama April 12, 2016

“Harsha Bhogle: Out”. Appeal!

Considering how powerful hashtags can be today, I am sure you have by now come across these: #IStandWithHarsha, #BringBackHarsha, #NoHarshaNoIPL, etc., but if you haven’t, and are clueless, allow me to enlighten you.

India played Bangladesh a few weeks ago in the World T20 Cup. The game was, as Ravi Shastri would put it, going down to the wire. A billion hopes were pinned on one bowler to save runs and win them the match. Across the border, around 156 million people hoped that their men at the crease would do the job for them. Bangladesh needed 11 runs off 6 balls to win. Hardik Pandya bowls the first ball; a single. The second and third balls run away for fours, and Bangladesh now need a mere two runs from 3 balls. Who would you root for at this point, if you were a neutral fan, and were unaware of the magical turnaround? So it should not be a stunner that the commentators praised the Tigers because they really were playing well until that point. It is the best cricket team that the country has had so far and they fought well; it was their game until the end. So to be fair, the team deserved all the commendation. The fourth and fifth balls swing in India’s favour unexpectedly, and now with 2 wickets down, Bangladesh need a risky 2 runs from 1 ball. The ball is smacked hard but it doesn’t carry, and Captain Cool runs one of their men out, keeping his team alive in the tournament. Bangladesh snatched defeat from the jaws of victory because like I said earlier it was their game. If Team India was playing against a big test nation like Australia and won in the same fashion, the win would be a huge deal. But we are talking about a win against a minnow nation. Their unbelievably close defeat against India is a bigger deal than India’s win against them. Keeping that in mind, the commentators applauded the way in which the Bangladesh team played and fought till the end. They crumbled under pressure at the last moment while the Indian team remained calm and saw themselves through victory.

While I watched the presentation ceremony after the match, and listened to the ever so wise Mahendra Singh Dhoni, I happened to come across a tweet by actor Amitabh Bachchan on my newsfeed. It read, “With all due respects, it would be really worthy of an Indian commentator to speak more about our players than others all the me.”

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Minutes later, Dhoni ‘quoted’ the tweet and posted, “Nothing to add.”

Like most people all around the globe, I’m a huge fan of Dhoni’s wisdom, his performance and his overall temperament, so I don’t understand why he would side Bachchan on this, but I guess he has his own reasons. As for the original tweet, it was totally uncalled for. The outcome was that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sacked Harsha Bhogle from commentating during the Indian Premiere League. In the words of the journalist Seema Goswami said,

“How asinine to sack the best cricket commentator we have!”

Harsha Bhogle himself tweeted saying that Star Sports is a sports channel that caters to multiple nations and not just India so it doesn’t make sense for him to be obviously biased towards players of his country. He was only doing his job right that night – like he always has. Harsha Bhogle, if some of you are a little unfamiliar, is known as the only expert on cricket who is not a cricketer. With a brilliant IIT and IIM background, he started off his career with radio commentary, and eventually made his mark on TV commentary in the early 80’s. As you can see, he has immense experience in the field. Being a huge cricket enthusiast, I admit that I don’t know everything there is to know about the sport. There is so much to learn so I always listen to the commentary and learn more. And Bhogle’s analyses are always interesting. Now it’s a pity that he isn’t there to impart his knowledge and exper se during the IPL, a tournament where international cricketers come together to play the sport in India.

Problems arise when people attempt to handle issues that they should not be involved with. Amitabh Bachchan should stick to what he knows best – acting. Nobody tells him what he should do, do they? Why? Because he knows best. Similarly, Harsha knew what he was doing. India didn’t win that night, Bangladesh lost. Their commendable performance (and shocking loss after) required analysis and that’s all that Bhogle tried to convey to the world.

There are rumours that two senior cricketers even complained about the commentator, leading the BCCI to make the strong decision. Bhogle then mentioned on social media that he hoped that it (BCCI’s decision) wasn’t because of cricketers’ complaints. The BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur, on the other hand, refuses to comment on Bhogle’s sudden ouster which only makes this whole fiasco more confusing and messy.

What amazes me though is the fact that one tweet wreaked so much of a havoc. Perhaps Bachchan was too naive to not think of the impact his tweet(s) – or anything that he says on social media – can have. Up until now, nobody had a problem with Harsha Bhogle’s commentary. A DailyO article a cheekily asks if a commentator also should now wear nationalism on his sleeve. I wonder if that’s where we’re headed. That said, Bachchan should have done a bit of research before hastily and incautiously tweeting what he did.

Meanwhile, Twitter raged with support for Harsha Bhogle. Many have been trolling the actor, and even the BCCI, as the management has not yet provided a valid reason to the commentator for his sacking. It’s alright that we don’t know, but that the man himself has no clue why is rather unfair and irresponsible. A fan tweeted that it’s okay that he is out, that he can use this as a break, and that he doesn’t have to wake up every morning to go to work. To which Bhogle replied,

“I never go to ‘work’ when I go to a cricket match!”

Someone who is so passionate about the game, about his job, was shown the door – without a reason, much less a fair one.

Nevertheless, Bhogle’s conduct in this crisis has been exceptional. I wish the world had more dignified, sensible, humble and calm celebrities. He posted on Facebook that he was uncomfortable with all the attention on he has been getting recently, and that he only tells the story and he isn’t the story himself. He even said that he was fine with people not liking him. But I think the king of cricket commentary deserves to know the truth behind him not being included in the box for IPL Season 9.

For me, what is absolutely mind boggling is that The Board of Control for Cricket in India could have match-fixing/spot-fixing elements in their midst for years, but when someone does their job right, he is sacked. Unbelievable.

#IStandWithHarsha, do you?

Written by Christina Martin

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