How did Harsha Bhogle become Harsha Bhogle?
Have you ever seen Harsha Bhogle hit six sixes like Yuvraj Singh, hit a straight drive like the God of Cricket — Mr. Sachin Tendulkar, or bowl deadly inswinging yorkers like Wasim Akram?
I bet not.
Then how exactly did Harsha Bhogle become the voice and face of world cricket?
Absence Speaks Louder Than Words
The Cricket World Cup fever is just beginning to catch on.
The tournament’s entertainment value is increasing by the day, but this World Cup is still missing two things — a thriller & Harsha Bhogle’s voice. Unfortunately, Mr. Bhogle has caught another fever, dengue, and has had to subsequently miss a few matches.
It is the days that he is not present that you miss his voice the most.
Where It All Began
Okay okay, I know I am deviating. Anyway, back on topic. Where were we again?
Oh yes, how did Harsha Bhogle become Harsha Bhogle?
Did he take voice coaching lessons? Did he get a PhD in phonetics & linguistics? No, no he did not.
Harsha’s mother and uncle had arrived in India from Lahore on an army train right before the Partition in 1947.
He remarked in The Grade Cricketer’s podcast, “For my father’s generation, survival was important.” Just like many Indians in that generation, he grew up in a middle-class household. Both his parents were professors. So naturally, education was at the forefront of his upbringing.
Bhogle completed his undergraduate in chemical engineering and then went on to graduate from IIM Ahmedabad in 1985. He even worked in advertising for a couple of years after his education.
However, he did not forget his first love, cricket.
He had played Division A level cricket in Hyderabad along with competing at Osmania Nizam University & company teams. In Hyderabad, he had played with the likes of Arshad Ayub and Mohammad Azharuddin, a cricketer he would later write a biography of. (As an aside, he was once offered the opportunity to bat at #3, but said no. He was eventually picked for the university team but unfortunately did not make the XI).
Harsha Bhogle’s greatest weapon is his voice.
He found his voice during elocution & debate contests in high school. The ‘Eureka’ moment in his career came when he realized he could combine this gift with the love of cricket.
His broadcasting journey began with a 15-minute commentary stint during a Hyderabad vs Kerela Ranji Trophy match. Later in 1983, he took part in his first ODI broadcasting assignment on Doordarshan-Hyderabad.
By the time we arrived at the 1992 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Bhogle was recognized as the “sexiest voice on radio.”
During a casual interview with Gaurav Kapur, Bhogle reflected,
“I didn’t look like a model, I didn’t play a 100 Test matches. There was lots of things I wasn’t. So, I didn’t have the option to say ‘No’ to anything…When you say ‘Yes,’ it’s a fantasy world. You don’t know where you will go when you say yes.”
From All India Radio & the BBC to Kutti Stories with Ravichandran Ashwin & Cricbuzz Live, Bhogle’s evolution is his mark of success. Sometimes he is having fun with Gaurav Kapur & Joy Bhattacharya, while at others, he is critically analyzing the state of world cricket with Ian Bishop, Nasser Hussain, and Mike Atherton.
To hone his skills and stay relevant in the broadcasting world, he did anything and everything. He has covered matches in makeshift commentary boxes in Hyderabad, written for several newspapers, transitioned to radio, become the face of cricket during live television, conducted quiz shows, talked about mental health, given inspirational speeches to the next generation, written books, interviewed the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, and has done a heck of a lot more. Bhogle’s multilingual background aided in his evolution as a broadcaster. He wrote magazine columns in Marathi, took broadcasting assignments in English, interviewed in Hindi, and joked in Hyderabadi.
Throughout his career, he has interviewed Sir Garfield Sobers, heard memorable stories from another great Indian commentator, AFS Talyarkhan, and possibly most importantly, covered the career of Sachin Tendulkar.
The Voice That Propelled Sachin Tendulkar
An article on Harsha Bhogle is incomplete without a mention of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Even Ian Bishop took a step aside when Harsha concluded one of the great careers in one of the legendary segments of cricket commentary.
Only someone who had followed Tendulkar’s career since he was 14 years old could have delivered a perfect tribute to the legend.
“This is an indicator what one man meant to a nation. With Tendulkar, it was not just cricket…He’s been a good man, apart from being a great cricketer, Tendulkar…Tendulkar meant to India more than just the numbers. It’s as if Tendulkar was born to be great and everyone just looked after him. Everyone in Indian cricket, in Mumbai cricket, looked after him. Everyone will have their own Tendulkar story to tell…Those 22 yards made that little boy from Bandra the legend that he became.
Without the voice of Bhogle, Sachin’s shots might not have been heard around the world.
What Characteristics Makes Harsha Bhogle Good?
Bhogle often says that for broadcasting metrics, “Chappell is my guru for work ethic.”
He prepares for each interview, writes down notes, talks to Simon Taufel to understand the rulebook, and draws from the wisdom of other cricketers to understand how to analyze techniques and read the pitch conditions.
He continues to learn and innovate. Not many would have the courage to dive into the world of Twitter, YouTube, and podcasts. He keeps on learning. But that’s how he has managed to stay relevant in the industry for over four decades. Two of his own quotes describe him best,
“The day you think you know everything in life, you’ve descended already. You’re gone.”
“Sometimes, we wait for the big things to happen in life…Be happy with small times….But don’t wait for the big thing to happen.”
When things are all said and done, what will I remember the most about Harsha Bhogle?
Along with the voice, came the infectious personality — the expressions, inflections in the voice, historical references, the smile, research into players’ backgrounds, and the contrast between serious bits & humor. He talks mostly about cricket but speaks with an open mind.
As cricket fans, we like to talk about our cricket heroes, the greatest Test match players, and the best World Cup finishes.
Sometimes, we should sit back and appreciate the people who make the cricket community great — The commentators, the umpires, the ground staff, the security staff, administrators, and many other individuals behind the scenes.
I will leave you all with this quote by American poet and civil rights activist:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
And Harsha Bhogle did exactly that. He provided us with the little moments of joy to live by, Maya Angelou.
Sources: Biography — Harsha Bhogle