Just two days into season 9 of the IPL, there are new teams, new players, but the biggest talking point happens to be an old voice that is missing from the commentary box.
Harsha Bhogle was unceremoniously sacked by the broadcaster despite being on the IPL roster, allegedly on the insistence of the BCCI.
On Monday, the 54-year-old Bhogle put forward his side of the story on his Facebook page.
“I still don’t know why I am not doing the IPL. I haven’t been told. I can accept the fact that people don’t like me. But I genuinely hope it isn’t because cricketers have complained about what I have to say,” Bhogle wrote.
On Saturday, soon after the news of Bhogle’s sack+ surfaced, the internet was flooded with tweets in support of the ace commentator. From cricket lovers to Bollywood celebrities all mentioning how much they will miss hearing his views on air, and wanting to know the real reason behind his sacking.
There are multiple stories doing the rounds as to why Bhogle was dropped. But, in the absence of any sort of confirmation it would be unfair to list any theories or counter theories, since that would amount to speculating. NDTV’s attempts to get an on-the-record comment from the BCCI bore no fruit.
But what’s really interesting is that Harsha isn’t the first commentator to get BCCI’s boot. Here are a few examples, from the recent past, which point towards a dangerous trend emerging in Indian cricket, where the Board seems to be deciding what a commentator must and must not say on air.
In 2012, Arun Lal was dropped from the Indian commentary panel for allegedly doing commentary in the Bangladesh Premier League, a direct competition for the IPL.
In 2013, Sanjay Manjrekar was dropped as commentator for the India-Australia series, despite having a contract with the official broadcaster for allegedly criticising BCCI president N. Srinivasan and IPL CEO Sundar Raman during a webcast.
The same year, New Zealander Danny Morrison and South African HD Ackerman were sacked from IPL commentary after they introduced Virat Kohli as India’s captain-in-waiting, at a time when questions were being raised about MS Dhoni’s leadership.
Three years ago, renowned Australian commentator and Test captain Ian Chappell refused to do commentary for the India-Australia series after his contract didn’t allow him to talk about team selection, DRS or administrative matters.
The muzzling of commentators by BCCI has led to a dangerous trend emerging, one which has no place for objectivity in cricket commentary.
Take IPL season 6 for example, when the entire cricketing world was rocked by the spot fixing scandal, the IPL commentary and studio team didn’t mention the ‘F’ word once during the entire duration of the tournament, let alone have a discussion on the most pressing issue in world cricket at that moment.
Bhogle himself has been guilty of turning a blind eye on controversial yet important issues in Indian cricket. His interview during last year’s world cup with Srinivasan, the chairman of ICC at the time, was the perfect example of commentators adopting the head in the sand approach: where not a single question was asked about Srinivasan’s removal as the BCCI chief on charges of conflict of interest or the Big-3 taking over the ICC under his leadership.
In times such as these, do cricket fans really miss a commentator on TV? After all, whoever might hold the mike in his hand, the remote control lies solely in the hands of the BCCI.