This is not in defence of Harsha Bhogle. Rather this is in defence of intellectual freedom. In defence of journalism ethics and more. Harsha Bhogle is just the messenger in this whole game of intolerance. I'd have said this even when it had been someone far younger or someone far senior. Harsha was doing a job and doing it to his best.
Anyone who knows Harsha well and has followed his career will agree he is not one to ruffle feathers. He has always tried to steer clear of controversy. For someone like him, it is near impossible to be provocative. Rather hurt cricketers' sentiments.
If the BCCI or the players have taken offence to something he has said, so much so to terminate his contract, it just shows the extreme level of intolerance that has come to engulf Indian cricket.
It is as if the players and the BCCI can't be touched. Constructive criticism is beyond tolerance. Either you are a complete yes-man or you will be banished. It just reeks of intolerance, very similar to what is happening in the country at large.
It is unfortunate to say the least. If our players have such frail egos, it is just sad. And what is more disappointing is that the BCCI has taken it upon itself to pamper such egos without trying to stand up for the cause of intellectual freedom.
Ravi Shastri, for one, keeps saying he has never been under pressure from the BCCI to speak a particular line. If Ravi is correct, one wonders why the yardstick is different in Harsha's case. Or is Ravi trying to be politically correct and protect his employer?
|Ravi Shastri, former Indian cricketer and former Director for the Indian cricket team.|
The second point is why is Harsha being singled out? Is it because he is not a cricketer? Would the Board have done the same thing if it was a cricketer of stature? For example Shane Warne was unfairly critical of Marlon Samuels after his dismissal against India in the World T20 semi final. Warne, given his past with Marlon, said a lot of harsh words on air, which, one must admit was a result of bias. No one dared take Warne off air.
Will the BCCI, for example, not allow Warne a commentary stint because he had turned acutely personal against Samuels? So, why Harsha? Is he a soft target when it comes to players and non-players? If Warne can go free despite turning personal, Harsha should have never been sacked for saying what he did!
Finally, it is that dreaded word - nationalism. Rather, jingoistic nationalism. As a commentator, you need not be over-patriotic. In fact, we in media are told to be objective. Harsha, it seems, is paying the price for being objective. Getting the boot for not screaming nationalist slogans from the commentary box.
All said and done, it is a sad reflection on our Board and on the men who control it. It shows they can't tolerate criticism or better still opinions which don't match theirs. Not without reason Indian cricket has come to where it is and not without reason the BCCI is being castigated day in day out by the Supreme Court.
If the players can say what they want to and the BCCI can do what it wants, journalists and commentators have every right and freedom to stand up for what they believe in.
Harsha should not feel victimised for a BCCI contract is nothing in front of intellectual freedom. For a man of his talent, he will sure get a job and do it well. It is not his loss.
Rather Indian cricket is the loser, for it has once again exposed itself to the world. Shown its egotistic underbelly. Pity our players and our Board for such intolerance. Pity their arrogance.