Monday, February 21, 2011

Harsha Bhogle - The voice of Indian cricket

The animated celebration of the first two days of the world cup 2011 is a testament of cricket’s meaning in the sub continent. In this part of the world though poverty stares at most levels of the society due to unfavourable demand and supply equation yet all the worries stand still and joy takes over the moment the bat hits the ball. The Afridis, Muralis, Shakibs and Sachins have not only brought familiarity across the geographical stretch but have continuously offered entertaining content which has acted as a soothing balm in an otherwise black and white environment where the top priority has always been about the day’s next commitment. Just like the giants, the game has also produced a few who without ever having donned the national jersey have managed to enter our households. If in this world cup, after a long gap viewers are slowing starting to switch on their television set for the pre match analysis and stay glued to it right up to the completion of the post match analysis then the sole reason behind it is the screen presence of Harsha Bhogle, who incidentally is covering his 7th world cup.

For some one who has played cricket at the University level, his cricketing skills can be termed as above average but that does not earn him his stripes. It is his ability to give words to the character of a master’s straight drive or a wily foxes’ doosra that connects him with the emotion of more than a billion. Cricket had always united the sub continent but there was a lack of a story teller who could add color to the pictures and showcase the expression of the mass to the world. Till the 1990’s Indian parents were influenced by the air of conservatism that the country’s economy projected and that restricted young brains to career options in either technical, administration or medical field in pursuit of secured future but much before liberalization Harsha Bhogle had defied the trend by earmarking his area of specialization in a domain that was yet to be introduced to the middle class.

Today when illusionary notions like peer pressure, parental dreams, packages, financial security have made job placements around educational institutions a mockery and have robbed creative independence out of career graphs one can only leave it to imagination of what would have happened had IIM branded Chemical engineer Harsha Bhogle opted for the tested instead of taking the unexplored territory. Like every dreamer he had his shares of risk and hard days. Not only did he quit his advertising job but at the age of 19 in 1991 he had to domestically fund his trip to down under to work alongside Australian Broadcasting Corporation as his employer All India Radio were unable to offer financial assistance. Just like history luck favoured him as being Alan Border’s ghost writer for the tour gave him a golden opportunity to pick on his brain. Later on when Disney’s ESPN entered India in 1995, he got his first big break and since then there has been no looking back. In 16 years that have passed by he has established himself and created a niche for his profession to be titled as the voice of Indian cricket.

His title is far from being officially accredited but it is the people who have bestowed the honor on him and there is a reason behind it. His role in the game goes beyond the statistics that emanates from the cricket field. His unique talent of making composite look simple and relate with the fans differentiates him from many others analysts visible across television channels. If today cricket is the way of life for a large number of Indians who claim to know more about London or Melbourne than the respective country’s locals then a major credit goes to Harsha Bhogle who along with his friend Gautam Bhimani has been the best geography teacher of our times. Informing and sharing facts and images from Auckland to Bridgetown and effectively negating the difficulties of waking up late or sleeping at the wee hours by mastering the art of assimilating the opinions of legends have embedded him into every cricket follower’s nerve system in the sub continent.

Self awareness and working efficiently within limitations by sharing forthright views, packaging his team of presenters and connecting the experts with the fans instead of trying to be one has been his biggest strength that has enabled him to hold his own ground when squeezed in between 10,122 test runs and 916 international wickets in front of the camera. His ability to sport a naturally broad smile and using appropriate words to communicate without ever cutting into anyone’s space makes him loveable and a modern day icon. If today his views on the game are considered as a benchmark then it has a lot to do with his quality educational background and valued upbringing which gives him the freedom to alternatively switch between cricket and real life. His background allows him to accept anyone from an ex cricketer to a cameraman on ground as a teacher and learn from the environment and it has been one of the key reasons behind his longevity in the circuit dating back to much before Tendulkar took guard in Sialkot.

For anyone who follows him on twitter and has truly understood the language of his 80 odd minutes IIM-A address or of his articles on print and electronic media will acknowledge that sense has always prevailed in his successful journey. They give an insight into the dynamics of brand Harsha Bhogle and proves that for such a person accomplishments cannot be a fluke.

The brand is a symbol of hope and light for every dreamer as he epitomizes the true meaning of living one’s passion. Though he belongs to a depleting tribe of non cricketers on the big stage, it is his optimism that inspires many around him who at best are top class gully cricketers to aspire of a career in the game in a role beyond taking strike or shining the cherry.

If Richie Benaud is for Australia, Jonathan Agnew is for England and Tony Cozier is to West Indies then Harsha Bhogle surely deserves to be India’s flag bearer in this category. For someone who believes that praises for a person should be shared with him/her much before the judgment day which usually is the society’s norm, the biggest compliment comes from the horses’ mouth himself:

“I can’t be Tendulkar but mind you Tendulkar can’t be me either.”

Link to Harsha Bhogle's IIM- A address:

Sidhanta Patnaik
21st February 2011
Marthahalli, Bangalore

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