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Harsha Bhogle: Cricket's gentleman behind the mic

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Dhiraj Rao
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 09 Mar 2018, 11:58 IST
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Did you know that the world's first international cricket match was played between Canada and USA in New York in 1844? For a glorious game, having a rich history of about 140 years, admittedly it is an absorbing task to write something new and refreshing. Yes, you have an abundance of stories happening in sports around the world, but I wanted it to be special, being my first one. Sometimes, when you are looking for an answer, you search everywhere else before you glance at what is right in front of you. I wondered about the reason I am here in the first place.

Then, an exuberant, zestful, unassuming, bespectacled image of a person was in front of me. Adam Gilchrist once described him as India's first non-playing cricket celebrity. “This is the most romantic moment in Indian Cricket” – His words after Anil Kumble scored the first century of his celebrated career, It’s none other than Harsha Bhogle.

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Being a familiar personality, Harsha, as he himself likes to be referred to, has a background that, by now, is known to everyone. Being an engineer and a graduate of the prestigious IIM Ahmedabad, Bhogle had a great career (in advertising, which he reckons is his second love, cricket naturally being the first one) to look forward to. However, he realized, soon that, sports is where his heart lies. After trying his luck in some Sports Management companies, he took the bait of going on his own and embarked on a journey few had ever contemplated on pursuing. The rest, as we say, is history.

Apparently, there are very rare fortunate ones in this world who manage to stay committed to their passion. From a personal point of view, I believe Harsha, who believes sports is all about emotions of joys and disappointments, is much more than a television presenter to me. In my childhood. I was habitual of reading a leading Indian daily every single day thanks to my father. And there I was, with my budding interest in sports but with minimal understanding of English.

Astonishingly I rarely missed Harsha' s weekly articles. Of course, I didn't comprehend everything, but for an eight-year-old who just loved cricket, those articles were a perfect way to savour the game. Fifteen years later, now being an MBA student, that attachment for the captivating articles remains the same. Perhaps that is why I tell my friends, that those days played an indispensable role in enlightening my penchant for English as a language.

Irrespective of whether you are a YouTuber or not, you must have come across an impressive lecture by Bhogle at IIM Ahmedabad way back in 2005. It is a rather humble narration of his journey towards excellence. But if you go through it diligently, one might admit that these are nothing but the recipes for success. It was no surprise then that a few years later, the charismatic commentator came up with his own book along with his wife Anita (also an IIM graduate) titled The Winning way, an enthralling read on learning from books for managers. The response was good enough for the authors to go for the second edition of the book released last year which also was a massive hit.

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Enter captionHarsh
Book launch of The Winning Way in 2011

My love for cricket blossomed probably during the 1999 WC, however, I believe Harsha's articles coaxed me to go through the last three pages of the newspaper daily, making me appreciate sports even more. For those who were not fortunate enough, Bhogle put forward a book, Out of the Box, an impressive collection of his articles from The Indian Express, where you could relive those incredible writings. I must admit, his witty one-liners and the enchanting voice was an added initiative for me to watch cricket. It would be an understatement to state that I loved every part of the match when Bhogle was in the commentary box and there was a never a dull moment during those phases.

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Remember the day, Mumbai came to a standstill: 16 November 2013 - Sachin Tendulkar retiring from international cricket. If you were fortunate enough to witness those amazing scenes after India’s resounding win, you might admit that the right person was in the commentary box at the right time. I bet no one would have ever done justice to that moment more than the experienced anchor. The quintessential commentary was a perfect side-show for an occasion where millions of teary-eyed fans around the world were finding it difficult to fathom that the unbelievable journey of Tendulkar is over.

Aptly, Harsha was spot on when he said, When Sachin scored a hundred, India slept well. I doubt whether we will witness such a spontaneous outpouring of emotions for any sportsperson in future and therefore, it was a defining moment in Indian cricket made more memorable by those touching narration of the Little Master’s journey by the master commentator.

Invariably, I have followed every show that Bhogle had presented over the years, just because every show was a learning in itself. Looking at his life which involves traveling to great venues around the world and being in touch with cricketers and celebrities, you might be falsely coaxed into believing that the journey has been a bed of roses. But, one needs to admire the fact that in a field which has been traditionally dominated by a plethora of former cricketers, Bhogle managed to carve a niche for himself just by understanding the game from a fan’s point of view.

What makes it more remarkable that he also left behind luxuries of a cozy corporate job. Incredibly, there are many who believe his knowledge of cricket is second best to none. Perhaps, that is the reason, Bhogle remarks that he has always walked on a tightrope for too long!

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So, what does Harsha Bhogle mean to world cricket? He has lived his life fulfilling his love for cricket. Quite remarkably, he has managed to stay relevant with the changing times. His commentary which has a peculiar sense of humor and is always accompanied by a stamp of wit, class, and creativity has surely redefined commentary. A story says that, back in the days when Bhogle worked as radio commentator at ABC, during the Australian Open, a girl sitting next to him asked, ‘Are you Harsha Bhogle?' The news spread around in no time and he was absolutely hounded for autographs!

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Harsha in the commentary box. Image courtesy sillyconfusion.com

I believe, this is where his true contribution lies. His simple but riveting, all-encompassing commentary has made people embrace cricket and when Harsha is on the mic, one thing for sure is you never know what is going to come up next. So, while I would be telling my grandsons about the Tendulkars, Federers, Sindhus, and Messis, I would proudly tell them that we romanced cricket through the voice of Harsha Bhogle!

Published 09 Mar 2018, 11:58 IST
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