“Thank God it’s Friday! Harsha’s column must be up.” : No one, ever.
Friday after Friday, Harsha Bhogle occupies premium space on the world’s premier cricket website. It is a position of great influence and enormous visibility. It is one of the few dashboards with which historically static and stoic national and global bodies can be influenced. It is one of the few avenues in cricket media thru which corruption, cheating and hypocrisy can be exposed. Of all the privileges desired amongst Indians, it ranks somewhere between being a Bollywood personality and a successful politician’s kid.
Yet, week after week one of Indian media’s true pioneers and erstwhile good guys chooses to dabble in clichés, platitudes and the lowest hanging fruit. Topics that have been uncontroversial since his birth such as the Indian team not being as physically fit as other teams, whether or not a player can choose his retirement are given the pride of place in his weekly column. To add to this, in spite of being designated an opinion columnist he rarely takes a stance on issues of not.
Want to know where he stands on Decision Review System (DRS)? He is upset about the controversy but has zero guidance on either a resolution or a path to one. Where does he stand on match fixing and what causes it? He preaches and professes a lot of things without really assigning blame to either the individuals arrested for match fixing or the laws and boards in place. He instead uses convenient generic terms like society and culture to paint pictures with the broadest stroke possible.
His lack of a stance on most things would be the target of many a mob if not for a carefully cultivated public persona and impeccably polite demeanor. Being one of the truly nice guys once upon a time helps. Incompetence in the media can be masked with a friendly face and non controversial beliefs. Thomas Friedman has excelled at this for many years and amassed over 25 million dollars in net worth. It took the internet and many motivated bloggers (1, 2 examples of many) to expose him for the charlatan that he was and is.
In his latest piece, Harsha tries to take on switch hitting. The article riled me up even more than his usual columns because it was filled with several WTF gems –
“but at heart the game must be fair to bat and ball. Well, if not in reality, at least in principle.” – The game should be fair in principle but can avoid fairness in reality. Harsha has just proclaimed his approval for incompetent umpiring as no principles are violated.
“It is a shot that is fraught with risk and is difficult to play. But it is neither legal nor fair.” – Harsha asserts the shot is illegal in an article where he is trying to make a point that the shot should be made illegal. Yes, he just did.
“Steve Smith caught a ball by the boundary and tossed it in the air as he stumbled over the rope. The ball followed him over, but, showing great presence of mind, Smith jumped in the air, scooped the ball, both feet off the ground as he did, back into the playing area, landed beyond the rope, and popped back in to the field of play to catch the ball before it landed.For sheer skill and difficulty, he should have been rewarded with the catch, but the law doesn’t allow it. – Harsha just described something that is illegal in the game of cricket and compared it to something that is legal (switch hitting before a bowler commences his run up) and created a false equivalence.
“And so you have to go by the principle of fairness, even if takes away a bit of drama.” – When it comes to a battle between Dharma and Drama, Harsha is Yudishtra, not Shakuni.
VERY NEXT SENTENCE – Unless, of course, you want both sides to benefit, which will happen if you also allow a right-arm bowler to run in and suddenly switch hands to bowl left-arm. – Wait, what? Ambivalence, lack of self awareness and the ability flip sides faster than a tracer bullet! Harsha has it all.
Indeed, I believe there is fair ground to allow an lbw for a ball that pitches either side of the stumps when a batsman changes hands. (It is, of course, different with the reverse sweep, since a right-hander remains a right-hander and the feet do not move differently either.) – I love the completely arbitrary use of the phrase ‘of course’. It reminds me of managers in the corporate world using it in a casual manner to get employees to work thru the weekends. Kind of like, “Of course I have committed to the team working this weekend for this customer.” Semantics and usage of phrases aside, I fail to understand Harsha’s underlying point here.
Do we complicate things too much in the garb of moving ahead? Or is this an inevitable part of the evolution of the game? – Opinion columnists usually like to make their case in the final graf. It is a place to state what they believe. Harsha Bhogle will leave you with more questions than when he started the piece while also not answering any in the course of the piece.
Parting line – I look forward to more evolved thoughts than this article can manage. Truer words have never been spoken:).
All of the above quotes were lifted exactly from his piece. Without the Cricinfo stamp of approval, does anyone read and respect this stuff?
When you state you look forward to more evolved thoughts, I think you speak for all of us Harsha. We would all like Cricinfo’s opinion pages to represent strong, analytical and intelligent opinion. We would like some one with more evolved thoughts.
When Harsha came to the fore in the late 80’s and early 90’s he brought the fresh, clear perspective of an outsider. His life story of an MBA graduate pursuing his passions and being successful in a deeply nepotistic society was an inspiration to thousands of part-time writers/full-time fans like me.
Two decades later, his writing feels forced and his role in the cricket media evokes sadness, anger and frustration. He is not the media voice that Cricinfo or the fans of the game deserve. He is currently blocking the doorway to India’s Bill Simmons. Instead of using his bully pulpit to hold the powerful accountable, he vacillates. Instead of giving a public voice to India’s passionate millions and encouraging the fresh, the new and the smart, he is holding on to his turf. By never saying anything to hurt any one and by refusing to get specific with names, issues and views, he is hanging on to a position he once earned and deserved.
In other words, Harsha Bhogle is India’s Thomas Friedman.