In a nation of a billion crazy cricket fans, there sure is no way you would not come across some cricketing tidbit here and some gentlemanly element there across the vast expanse of India. Our country has indeed come a long way in this game that which originated interestingly on a land that had come to assert its rule over us for close to two centuries through history. Introduced by the British sailors as far back as the 18th century, it has taken a fair deal of striving for India to today emerge as one of the most successful of cricket playing nations. However, this play with the bat and the ball have not been something that we, the nation as a whole mastered overnight. From learning to maintain their composure at the crease to developing the agility that would make running between the wickets a thrill to witness in all the frenzy, India’s many exceptional cricketers have brought the country such laurels that we equivocally cherish and claim as our own. And indeed, there has not been any stopping India at the utmost level of chasing and coveting cricketing glory over the years. With a couple of ICC ODI World Cups as well as a T20 World Cup trophy and a Champions Trophy in their kitty, India today counts among the strongest of cricketing nations. Naturally, the hysteria surrounding the game in the country is there for everyone to see- Indian cricketers are no less than celebrities, worshipped as demi Gods and rooted for in utter devotion by its ever increasing crowd of cricket enthusiasts.
However, not everything about cricket is exclusively concentrated on what’s happening in the pitch. Or rather even in being played out to rapt attention on the grounds, cricket is as much a spectators’ game, cheered on by ardent fans and adoring followers who unleash their excitement every time a four makes its way to the boundary or a six leaps up in the air to land at the pavilion and of course also as wickets tumble of the opposition. Beyond that though, the gentleman’s game plays out also as entertainingly behind the mic, as former player turned commentators offer gentlemanly insights into the techniques of the game, with of course such jargon added here and chipping in with such info there that makes for a wholesome sporting experience for the senses. And why merely in offering a more decipherable account of events unfolding along the line of play, the commentary also is as vital a component of it, adding not just depth and substance to the whole event of cricketing importance, but also a certain romance that binds us all so much to the game that has us all ears for those familiar voices streaming from behind the prominent line of vision.
And even when the inevitable pursuance of cricket by commentators does not grant them as much attention as their younger selves on the field, there still have been a handful of such presences behind the mike so iconic that they have turned out to be separate identities of their own. One such man who has been keeping cricket fanatics enthralled with such on point entertaining takes on cricket not just in India is someone who is known as Harsha Bhogle. Delivering such a fun play with the words as well of whatever is characterising the cricketing field at the moment, the very witty commentary of Bhogle has led him also to be lauded as the voice of Indian cricket in his rather long and distinguished career as a commentator of the sport he played out much less than his counterparts. And yet in his understanding of the game and in bringing to fore those intricacies of cricket in a way that is remarkably captivating and engaging, Harsha Bhogle is undoubtedly one of the most encountered name in the world of the commentating art.
For someone so immersed in this art of storytelling the tales of the cricket pitch, Harsha Bhogle’s credentials, as far as his academic qualifications are concerned, are exemplary but of a different kind. A Chemical Engineeer having obtained his B. Tech degree from the Osmania University’s College of Technology in Hyderabad, Bhogle went on to pursue also a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Embarking therefrom on his professional journey, Bhogle found himself working at an advertisement agency for a couple of years before landing himself a similar such stint with a sports management company. While his background in management might have helped Harsha Bhogle emerge to be the identity that he is today, endowing him with a view on cricket that goes outside the purview of what might have occurred to him as a past professional player of the game, his association with the game is long drawn. Having started his commentating career as a teenager with All India Radio while still in Hyderabad, Bhogle however had been no stranger to the nitty gritties of the sport he so comfortably elucidates. Harsha Bhogle in fact had played A Div cricket in Hyderabad and represented Osmania University at the Rohinton Baria Tournament. But what transpires in the many precise deliverance of cricketing affairs that Bhogle has come to do with such command over his narration, it is his understanding of the audience mindset more than the game he narrates that have made him so exemplary a voice in a field so studded with stars and so thriving in the celebrity aura as cricket has come to do in the present times.
Interestingly, for a person not as ‘involved’ in the game of cricket in its physicality, Harsha Bhogle has to his name the distinction of being the first Indian commentator to be invited by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation during India’s cricket series before the 1992 Cricket World Cup. That marked not just his emergence on the international arena as a cricket commentator but also the dawn of a successful association with the ABC during India’s Australian tours while covering also the 2011–12 series in Australia solely for ABC Radio. Rated the most popular commentator in numerous polls and surveys, Harsha Bhogle’s standout stint in Australia also saw him nominated for having the sexiest voice in Australian Radio. The extent of Bhogle’s cricketing command led him also to work for the BBC for eight long years as part of their commentary team in the 1996 and the 1999 Cricket World Cups. Closer home, the man with the deep, resonant voice been the front man for ESPNStar cricket telecasts from the day they launched in India, back in 1995. Having covered more than 400 One Day Internationals and 100 Tests and armed therefore with the expertise of cricket that defies even his non playing credentials, what makes Bhogle such a favorite of the masses, evident in him been named the “favourite TV cricket commentator” by Cricinfo users, is his candid retelling of the events unfolding on the pitch, saying it exactly as he sees it. Thriving therefore on his love for the game, that is as pure as any other die hard cricket fan’s, Harsha Bhogle has time and again delivered also with such statements on such players that which stands as a testament not just to the heroics and exploits of the latter but also has him asserting his credibility further as someone who is among Outlook magazine’s one of the “eight people who have changed the way their profession is perceived”.
Harsha Bhogle’s eminence as a really exceptional cricket commentator, in fact one of the greatest in the world, has led him to be associated with the gentleman’s game in other positions as well. Having covered also all seasons of the Indian Premiere League from its inception in 2009 to 2016, Bhogle became the advisor to the Mumbai Indians for the 2008 IPL. His way with the words also led the voice of cricket to host television programs such as Harsha Online, Harsha Unplugged and School Quiz Olympiad for ESPN and Star Sports. And while Bhogle has been instrumental in furthering the popularity of cricket in India, it indeed has been a rewarding journey that unfolded also the other way round for him. With a television programme that strove to find broadcasting talent in India named “Harsha ki khoj”(“Harsha’s Quest”) after him, Bhogle has established himself truly as a man of the masses even when he is no any less starry a phenomenon today. Venturing beyond yielding the mic to his verbal flair, Harsha Bhogle let also his words unleash frenzied magic on paper, most notably in penning a biography of controversial Indian cricketer, Mohammad Azharuddin. Also added to his bibliography is The Winning Way that Bhogle co authored with wife Anita and that which is based on business knowledge drawn from the sporting world. Also, as the couple behind the sport-based communication consultancy called Prosearch, the expanse of Bhogle’s involvement with the game of cricket have made inroads into other aspects of his life as well, that which perhaps explains how this voice behind the mic tends to be so engrossing a storyteller weaving together the nuances of the bat and the ball with such easy flair making him among the finest and also the most popular of cricket’s present day commentators. For someone who knows his worth and believes in himself as much as this man does, Harsha Bhogle sure is as much an integral ‘player’ of the cricket world.