As he says in his own words, he is a ‘Hyderabad ka baccha’ ( a kid belonging/grown up in Hyderabad), Harsha Bhogle was in town last week. Apart from commentating at the T20 international game between India and West Indies, he also gave a talk at the Vidyaranya High School.
The talk hosted by ‘Manthan- A Forum for Public Discourse’ , a platform where people get to hear from leading proponents from various walks of life invited the wizard of cricketing knowledge Harsha Bhogle to speak on a subject the entire country loves. The game of cricket. Titled ‘Cricket: On and Off the Field’ people were excited to hear him speak. And he didn’t disappoint the audience.
Beginning on a philosophical note talking about time, he noted on a lighter note how the city of Hyderabad with its relaxed nature always provides for a lot of time. A contrast from the hurried life of the other metro cities which leave us huffing and puffing by the end of the day. The notion of time tied in charmingly when he began to talk about how the different formats of the game fare today.
Test cricket is the only format of any sport that resembles life closely. Any cricketing buff would have told you that. But only a wizard of words can seamlessly blend in two different topics and make sense. Harsha Bhogle talking about test match cricket mentioned the need for patience. He lamented the dying art of patience is killing the beauty of Test cricket.
Some poignant questions were put forth which definitely makes us think. How often do you see players today batting a day and a quarter to save a Test match? The last such instance that comes to my mind is Gautam Gambhir occupying the crease for almost 11 hours at Napier scoring a stoic 137 in the process helping India draw the second test on India’s tour of New Zealand in 2009. Today, it has become a rarity in Test matches as have the results of a draw.
The statistics presented by him on the results of the 34 Test matches that happened over the course of the year present some startling facts. 7 matches of the previous 8 Test matches have resulted in an innings victory. 19 games have been won with a margin of over 200 runs or 8 wickets. This decline of a contest between bat and ball in Test cricket is not an endorsement for the format. The one format where the batsmen have a challenge with ball, batsmen are faltering in away games.
Is it the shorter format of the game that is causing this? There were always noises about T20 bringing down quality of Test cricket. Or is it because of the changes in lifestyle where is patience is becoming a luxurious commodity that the players do not have the gumption to just hang in there? He left the audience lingering with these questions in their minds.
However, he categorically made a statement on cricket and the T20 which was quite interesting. Quoting him, “T20 is not the enemy of Test cricket. It is the streaming platforms, the smart phones, the malls which stand as an enemy of Test cricket.” It is a reflection on the change in lifestyle where we do not time to stop and take in the simple pleasures of live. Test cricket is just like that. Like batting in the second innings of a Test match.
Batting in the second innings of a Test match on a crumbling pitch is not an easy talk. The pitch is crumbling and slowing down. The odd ball shoots off of a length or just skirts the surface. The ball does its own tricks. Braving these when the batsmen scores runs, the joy of scoring these runs is much more immense. In a similar vein, after a tiring day of work sitting down against the window looking at the sunset is just as pleasurable. These small moments of joy are the moments that get us nostalgic and keep us alive.
He reflected on the changes that time has brought about and how the different formats of the game are democratising the game and drawing more crowds to the stadiums. His words were an allegorical representation of life while discussing the different formats of the game and how there is a lack of viewers for Ranji matches and Test matches compared to the past.
While that was Harsha Bhogle’s section on the events happening on the field, he moved on to talk about happenings that were taking shape away from the 22 yards and the changing scenario of world cricket.
He elucidated on how the young talent that needs to be nurtured and lack of help to help them cope with new found success found due to the growing presence of T20 cricket. With the decline of patience and the increasingly hurried nature of life in a world surrounded with wonderful gadgets that offer instant gratification, we have somewhere lost the practice of being grounded. We are unable to handle both success and failure. It is a reason we are losing a lot of young talent. It is no different in the world of cricket.
Combining fact with philosophy and lacing his talk with humor Harsha Bhogle had the audience eating out of his palms. Speaking on the point of youngsters handling success, he spoke at depth on how the T20 leagues around the world are providing great opportunities but not teach budding talents to handle the pressures success brings along with it.
India began its tryst with T20 cricket in the December of 2006 against South Africa. It was the sole T20 international the Indian team played before embarking for the 2007 T20 World Cup. India’s success at the World Cup changed the way BCCI and India perceived T20 cricket. In the very next year, the Indian Premier League (IPL) was launched with much fanfare. Couple of years along the line, there are many state T20 leagues happening along the lines of the IPL.
It opened up a window of opportunities for a lot of players. Not only did it bring the budding domestic and international players into contact with the legends of the game, it also brought them into contact with the glitz and glamour associated with the sport. Players who were languishing and trying hard to get into state teams now had a chance at livelihood in the sport they loved.
The boom provided by the leagues saw many players become overnight millionaires. It brought the families of the players out of poverty and changed family structures inside homes. But is also brought on pressure to succeed. And success sometimes groomed arrogance and saw players throw away their careers.
In short, he captured the essence of life and taught important life lessons elucidating and imparting knowledge on his passionate subject, the game of cricket. He encapsulated the happenings in the world cricket, added a dash of philosophy, a pinch of humour and made it an enriching and relatable experience.