I think I would like Harsha Bhogle as a person if I ever met him.
He appears to be an affable kind of guy.
Growing up in Australia, I first learned of Harsha when ABC radio hired him to sit alongside Jim Maxwell and call Test matches many moons ago. Knowledgeable, articulate and a different voice.
Oh, how we longed for a different voice. We still do now.
But like everyone who is employed or on contract, one day you are bound to be fired or made redundant.
Its just happened to Bhogle.
Being a famous TV cricket commentator does not come with some special right to employment for life.
In this regard, Bhogle being sacked is a non issue.
What is interesting is whether the sacking has links to some kind of quasi Soviet style censorship?
It is difficult to argue that Bhogle was even close to anti-establishment.
Despite the protests from the BCCI that it is all rubbish, the Supreme Court of India confirmed via the Lodha report that their commentary contracts ban callers from discussing anything that might clash with the administrative body. Whether that be selection, captaincy speculation, the DRS or god forbid, that two teams have been banned from the IPL.
Bhogle abode by these rules. So did Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri.
Ian Chappell told the BCCI to get stuffed. He would have no part in any Orwellian message control.
It is unfair to single out the BCCI as the only party convinced that shutting up dissenters is the right thing to do.
Writer Jarrod Kimber had his accreditation “delayed” when he was brave enough to tackle Giles Clarke and the ECB in his movie Death of a Gentleman.
Most recently, Fazeer Mohammed was banned from press conferences in Australia last summer by the WICB for daring to be critical of their leadership.
When the host country’s board is responsible for media accreditation, those that dare to speak out against and raise difficult topics run the risk of losing their licence to operate.
It is a threat that has come to fruition more than once.
So what are these boards scared of?
Is it that they will be held to account? They are, after all, simply trusted as custodians of the sport. They do not own it as such.
Is it that debate is something they are afraid to participate in?
Are they simply men of privileged who are not used to be challenged?
Ultimately, it is the consumer who holds the cards. You and I.
For if we continue to accept that the filtered and polite positive views are the only way to absorb cricket, then we are the muppets.
New media is opening pathways for other “non accredited” voices to be heard.
We have globally available live coverage via Guerrilla Cricket and White Line Wireless. We have bloggers. We have podcasts. We have Youtube channels.
I once applied for Cricket Australia accreditation. I have been both a vocal critic and avid supporter of different Cricket Australia issues over the years. I was denied a press pass due to “availability”. Australia was playing the West Indies. The press box wasn’t exactly brimming.
But what did Cricket Australia achieve?
The reality is that I probably gain more from not having accreditation. I can speak my own mind. There are multiple outlets that are willing to publish it. Many of these have a reach of millions.
Not being at the match means I am less likely to produce ho-hum match reports and more likely to look for deeper issues to play with and stir debate about.
I am truly independent.
By refusing my accreditation, Cricket Australia have achieved nothing other than to upset my ego, which probably led somewhat to me being even somewhat more critical in areas where I needed not be. Should I have been a bigger man? Sure. But I’m only human.
In a convoluted way, Harsha should see this cutting of the tether to the BCCI as a blessing.
It is an opportunity for the world once again to hear the real Mr Bhogle. Real opinions from a real expert.
If the BCCI don’t want his view, millions of others do.
It is not as though he will ever be out of work. Yes, he may miss the IPL as a BCCI contracted commentator. But he still has Star Sports, and the sun still shines in the UK, Australia and multiple other places where people would like to hear from him.
So Harsha, I urge you to use new media to convey the truth and stimulate debate.
Bhogle publishing a real opinion on Facebook has a much bigger impact that stating a diluted view as a BCCI employee on television.
One has purpose, meaning and thought. The other is robotic and superficial.
You and I deserve better than a censored cricket media.
We should not accept that journalists are scared of asking MS Dhoni when he will retire, if he had a conflict of interest as an India Cements employee or does he think his name is in the sealed envelope?
We should demand these type of questions. We should demand intellectual and challenging debate.
Because if we don’t, events like the IPL will move further and further into the realm of WWE, where we know that everything we hear on the official airwaves is just random non offensive noise that disrespects you as a cricket fan.