Harsha Bhogle episode: Don’t mute comment, criticism in cricket

  • Pradeep Magazine, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Apr 14, 2016 09:21 IST
After Sunil Gavaskar, Harsha Bhogle has been dropped from the commentary team of this year’s IPL. (Photo courtesy: Harsha Bhogle’s Twitter handle)

When indiscretion becomes a trend, it can no longer be called an aberration. There are enough signs that players are flexing their muscles to intimidate the media so that no uncomfortable questions are posed to them. MS Dhoni’s jibes at those who question his cricketing decisions have become so common that it no longer makes news. Probably encouraged by the skipper, others have followed suit.

Since judgment passed on tactical decisions on the field or mistakes made by players cannot be subjected to scientific scrutiny, they can be contested. Sport, by nature, is susceptible to failure where a perfect performance can never be guaranteed no matter how skilful one may be. In a team sport like cricket, a success rate of 50% is considered outstanding. It shows how vulnerable the sport is to failure.

Does this mean the media should not question or analyse those failures? Should we discard an age-old practice where not just the media, but fans spend a lifetime dissecting each and every action of a player to satisfy their innate need to figure out why and how things went wrong? The beauty of sport has been that it has survived as much on the performances of players as on the analysis that follows. The two are inseparable, but of late we as a nation seem to be becoming so paranoid that now even criticism of players is considered against the interests of the country.

Read | After Sunil Gavaskar, Harsha Bhogle dropped from IPL commentary team

When someone of the stature of Amitabh Bachchan wants commentators to talk only about Indian players and that too in positive terms, he is endorsing this nationalistic view which is dominating the discourse in the country.

The players, young and of impressionable age, pampered by fans who treat them like demi-gods, may not be at fault if they start believing they are above criticism. Since the stakes in sport, more so in a game like cricket, are so high, they are bound to get encouraged by an ecosystem that says “no criticism please, we represent India”.

Whether this was one of the reasons why Harsha Bhogle, without notice or explanation, was removed as an IPL commentator, one is not sure. There has been no word from the Board on this. Why did it act so arbitrarily is not for us to ask, as even the Supreme Court is being told the Board is above all scrutiny and can do what it deems fit, regardless of whether it is right or wrong.

Read | I still don’t know why I am not doing commentary for IPL: Harsha Bhogle

It is strange that a Board which is unwilling to give recognition to a players’ association or a larger voice to them in running of the organisation, is tacitly supporting players on issues where the media can be silenced. The Board may be taking vicarious pleasure in using the players to silence a critical media, but has anyone thought of the long-term consequences?

For its good and that of the game, the Board should rein in the prima donnas of Indian cricket (that includes officials as well) and restore the balance which is so critical for the health of any sport. The Board, it is obvious from the stand in the Supreme Court, is for the status quo to be maintained.

The change, if and when it comes, can only happen once the SC forces the Board to implement the Lodha panel recommendations. Till then, like it or lump it.

Read more:

Why Harsha Bhogle row reinforces need to implement Lodha proposals

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