Cricket is not simply a game. Not at least for a phonetic country like India where it is followed as a cult with at least a billion and a half viewers forever remaining hooked onto the game till the final ball is bowled, delivering the much needed verdict. A sort of panic sets in the mind of nervy viewers whose hassles with everyday life’s challenges take a backseat following a tainted loss or an unprecedented victory that their home team grabs right at the midst of great surprise. Life suddenly seems all the more colorful and fanciful as if we all have grabbed a million dollar lottery with our team’s triumph. Such unparalleled fun is brought on to this cricket hungry nation with a simple game being won out on the 22 yard pitch.
But, amidst this tectonic and surprise-filled journey, our world often seems to carelessly dump the single most important factor considering the game’s movement, action and result that is yielded on a ball-by-ball coverage by a bevy of mindful brains whose coverage presents us with an all important information we all need and cannot do without.
In the glamorous world of cricket where iconic teams, legendary batsmen, reliable leader captains and mesmerizing bowlers inspire awe and command headlines, more often than not, we reserve the least credit for the indefatigable work of its second most important force behind the pitch; the cricket commentators. India is one hell of a cricketing country, ever producing shining talents decade after decade. But, let us remember, it is the painfully correct tedium of commentators that requires them to produce an effective churning of the match situation as presented by marrying stats with actions made loud by the bat and ball. For this special ability, they should be hailed and not regarded as mere ‘experts’ who command lofty praises and staunch verdicts on one of the most keenly followed games globally.
A checkered cricketing journey
Harsha, first made definitive foray into the game of cricket as a professional commentator empanelled by the prestigious BBC way back in 1996. It was during this time that he took to the game and started with flair, wit, great sensibility and a certain charm a career whose magnificent reach spanned continents in the world of cricket commentary.
An active expert opining on cricket’s greatest carnival; The ICC World Cup Cricket 1999, held in England, a tournament known for Sachin’s great form and the world record partnership between Saurav and Dravid versus Lanka at Taunton before the Australians made it their own, Harsha hogged not just the ‘mic-light’ but drew respect from the most critical and avid names in the world of commentary such as Tony Cozier and Geoff Boycott.
The earnest man who turned 54 earlier this year has always reserved his praise for the often unsung and lesser celebrated icons of the great game. This includes the wicketkeeper whose diving attempts concoct clever run-outs, great saves made in the outfield by tall and lanky bowlers whose fielding efforts often go unnoticed and especially, the umpires whose arduous stay on the cricket field from the beginning to the end of the contest decide destinies, both toward and against a team.
What makes Harsha Special
A true Sachin Tendulkar fan, Harsha Bhogle has often seen siding and at times, openly defending the likes of Saurav Ganguly whose bold captaincy exploits often commanded the stench from the ink of many leading journals across the world. He has always been as effusive in his praise of a Sehwag cover drive as he has been balanced in his analysis of a Brian Lara special knock.
A man who truly hailed many other international cricketers as being true greats like those coming from his India, Harsha Bhogle commanded respect from Aussies, English and the Proteans in his regard for the likes of Steve Waugh, Joe Root, Jimmy Anderson and Kallis, the greatest all rounder one has seen in a long time.
Harsha’s characteristic wit and perfectly times limericks that were as softly timed as that Rahul Dravid square drive kept the audiences involved in the game when often for the commentators pre conceived notions and biases, one can be seen unwittingly turning off the television set or simply pressing the mute button.
In an India often burdening Tendulkar with seamless love for his legendary craft over a game he came to command for years, Harsha’s voice was the saving grace that remarked during the master’s final bow out at Mumbai: ” Have we ever asked Sachin Tendulkar what it feels to be Sachin Tendulkar or just how hard it is to be Sachin Tendulkar”.
Like other biased nationalists who seem less of an expert of the game and more of one sided impractical wordsmiths, Harsha was as unforgiving in his lament of the Indian fielder who would come to drop a sitter of a catch.
Breaking away from the monotony of cricket commentary
The man from Hyderabad who started working with the All India Radio at Andhra Pradesh’s capital at the young age of 19, always seemed more interested in mindful analysis that the game needs rather than heavy-duty words carrying a myopic understanding in his depiction of a game’s situation.
Harsha, along with the progression of an Indian cricket team that saw the mantle being passed by the likes of Azhar to Ganguly and then the transition being accorded by the talismanic Dhoni to the new age rebel Kohli, has swiftly digressed into other creative and intellectually stimulating aspects governing cricket other than commentary.
With his erudite columns and inspiring journals that are often published in many of the leading world media, such as ESPN Cricinfo, The Guardian, DNA and The Times of India to quote a few, Harsha’s sharp observation’s of the gentleman’s game effectively include well informed dossiers on the rising generation of cricketers from all over the world and aren’t merely restricted to recognizing talent in India.
A man who loves to entertain whilst delivering us elevating thoughts and inspiring comments from the 4*4 structured box has made many significant friendships with the likes of Rahul Dravid, Sanjay Manjrekar and VVS Laxman, whose sterling careers would have missed the spark of the ever engaging delivery of words had it not been for Harsha’s wisdom from behind the stumps. As an expert he is respected world-over and chided at times, for there are hardly any occasions where he errors in the game. He is also a multi published author and a jovial motivational speaker who can easily get along with a 9 year old or a septuagenarian who still holds a special love for the gentleman’s game.
If one has to ever attempt to navigate Harsha’s endless channels of intellect, from which cricket oozes in every drop of expression, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that here is a man who made the cricketing world come closer by shrinking its global boundaries with his finesse and versatility in delivering the game he so passionately loves. And, in so doing, he has virtually reduced the boundaries between the West Indies and Sri Lanka, an Australia with India and Pakistan. The world is a harmonious place from where Harsha’s views the game.