This year’s Indian Premier League telecast will not be boosted by the familiar voice of commentator Harsha Bhogle. The 54-year-old cricket expert’s relationship with Indian cricket goes back to the mid-80s and he has been with IPL since the 2008 opening season. But ironically, he was informed about his IPL contract termination just a week back.
The decision obviously comes as a major surprise for the voice of Indian cricket since he had conducted the Season 9 draft auction, also seen in the league’s promotional videos, was included in the commentators’ 51-day-long duty roster, and even his flight was booked by the production house.
Despite Sony Network holding the IPL’s telecast rights, it is BCCI who controls the tournament’s production. BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur and IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla although refused to make any comment on Bhogle’s sudden exit.
However, a senior BCCI official informed The Sunday Express: “When deciding the commentators, we take feedback from everyone. We monitor social media reactions on commentators, and also take inputs from players.”
Other board members referred to an incident that happened during India’s opening WorldT20 match at Nagpur last month, where Bhogle was said to have had a heated exchange with a Vidharbha Cricket Association official. It’s been suggested, this could be the reason for his last-minute ouster.
Bhogle meanwhile, informed The Sunday Express that he was not at all aware of the reasons. “No one told me anything. I have not been formally told of the reason even now. All I have been told is ‘it is a BCCI management decision’,”
Of late, particularly during the WorldT20, Indian commentators have been part of several conversations on social media and after India’s last-ball “escape to victory” against Bangladesh in the crucial league fixture, actor Amitabh Bachchan, who was present at the venue, had posted a tweet, urging commentators to focus more on Indian cricketers. “With all due respect, it would be really worthy of an Indian commentator to speak more about our players than others all the time,” Amitabh had tweeted.
When his followers were confused about who he was referring to, Bachchan didn’t name the commentator. When pressed further, Bachchan tweeted he was not referring to Sunil Gavaskar or Sanjay Manjrekar.
“The assumption among some people was that he (Bachchan) was referring to me and while I don’t know if that is true, it did strike me that there seems to be a slight misconception about the role of a commentator in a telecast. I will try and clarify here,” Harsha Bhogle later reacted in a Facebook post.
“Star Sports 1 is the world feed. That is the telecast and commentary that goes to everyone around the world. That includes passionate fans in Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, England, the USA, everywhere. That broadcast must necessarily be an objective, balanced portrayal of events. Making that excessively India-centric means being unfair to other teams playing and to viewers from their countries who have the right to be as passionately involved as Indian supporters. And so, talking more about India, in a game like yesterday’s, would be letting down viewers in, say, Bangladesh,” he tried to justify his point.
Apart from the social media comments, commentators have discussed, in whispered tones, about Indian players expressing their frustration to them when criticised.
Bhogle admitted he will not speak on these issues, but he did talk about the Nagpur match where the Hindi and English commentary box was separated by the president’s enclosure. With the door of the VIP box shut, the commentators had to run down several flights of stairs, and climb up once again, following every stint.
“Working on a tight deadline, because of running around, I was at times panting as I went on air. This was because of that shut door,” said Harsha Bhogle.
Board officials also suggest Bhogle had an angry exchange with a cricket official at Nagpur venue as he said to him to open the door, and this matter eventually reached the Nagpur-based BCCI president Shashank Manohar. This incident might have triggered Bhogle exit.
“Even if it was the Nagpur incident, no one heard my part of the story,” said Bhogle.