BCCI – Bhogle’s Cricket Career Interrupted

15 Apr,2016

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Controversies have been defining elements in the Indian Premier League (IPL) over its previous eight seasons. In a way, they have also given the league its personality, that of a flamboyant rich bloke who’s constantly up to some or the other mischief. And a sharply defined grey personality is better than no personality at all.

 

But the controversies related to the IPL this year (and we are only a week into the long league) have been unlike those in the previous seasons. The Maharashtra drought controversy reflects tokenism of the silliest level. IPL has become a soft target in a case of misplaced priorities and incompetent governance.

 

In general, constant judicial intervention in the IPL over the last few years is not a healthy sign. BCCI has struggled with its public image ever since the sport got commercialised back in the ’90s. Far from being perceived as a professional organisation (which, in many ways, it actually is), BCCI is seen as a rogue body by the common cricket fan.

 

While most controversies have had little to do with actual cricket itself, the one that broke last weekend upset diehard fans and followers of the sport the most – Harsha Bhogle’s last-minute exclusion from the IPL 9 commentary team.

 

Compared to Australia, England and South Africa (and even New Zealand and West Indies, some will hasten to add), India has probably the weakest set of commentators in the English language. Sunil Gavaskar has mastered the art of sitting on the fence and Ravi Shastri is the king of the clichés. Sanjay Manjrekar has improved considerably over the years, but remains uninteresting, to use a mild expression. Sourav Ganguly showed great promise, but cricket administration has kept him busy of late. In the world of mediocrity that Indian commentators have created over the years, Harsha Bhogle has stood out as the best.

 

Speculation is rife about what led to Bhogle’s ouster. He claims he just doesn’t know, and the BCCI response has been, like most other times, reluctant and reticent. But whatever the trigger incident may have been, it is certain that Bhogle did not enjoy an easy equation with the BCCI (unlike his other employer Star Sports) over the years. Which doesn’t come as a surprise, given his simplicity and humility, traits that BCCI would never put on its wall as its values.

 

There has also been this rather bizarre controversy about an Amitabh Bachchan tweet, where he suggested Indian commentators would do better by focusing on Indian players. While that suggestion may reflect a misplaced understanding of the commentator’s role, it was just a suggestion after all. By endorsing it, MS Dhoni expressed his displeasure too. I re-watched the recording of the India-Bangladesh game and its post-match show to see what could have led to such a strong reaction by the captain. Barring the strange commentary by Gavaskar in the last over (his “glamour shot” theory has stayed since the 2011 World Cup), nothing else stood out as discomforting. But then, what’s a controversy if it’s a puzzle can be solved in a jiffy!

 

Harsha Bhogle remains a popular face in Indian cricket, one that signifies the inclusive nature of the sport in this vast country. Thankfully, there’s at least some cricket beyond what BCCI controls, and we will hear Bhogle on-air again.

 

As for BCCI, brace yourself for the next controversy. It must be round the corner.

 

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