The ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament has lost its most authoritative voice. An Indian Express report on Monday noted that Harsha Bhogle, one of cricket’s best known commentators worldwide, has been unceremoniously dropped by the Board for the Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) for the ongoing edition of the IPL.
According to The Indian Express, Bhogle, 54, was informed about the termination of his contract with IPL only a week ago.
Bhogle tweeted on April 9 that it "would have been nice to be part of @IPL again".
Bhogle, who is known as the voice of Indian cricket, has 3.66 million followers on Twitter where, predictably, his ouster, for which no official reason has been given yet, elicited howls of outrage and protest.
Speaking to the Sunday Express, Bhogle said, “No one told me anything. I have not been formally told of the reason even now.
All I have been told is ‘it is a BCCI management decision’.”
What’s more, BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur and IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla refused to comment on the sudden move.
However, the report adds that some board members have referred to an incident which occurred last month during India’s opening World T20 game at Nagpur.
According to the report. Bhogle had a heated exchange with a Vidharbha Cricket Association official over locking a door to the VIP box that separated the commentary boxes for English and Hindi; this meant that bilingual commentators, such as Bhogle, had to climb flights of stairs up and down to get around the VIP box each time they needed to switch from one language commentary to the other. Some BCCI officials hinted that that incident could have caused the sudden termination of contract. BCCI president Shashank Manohar is a native of Nagpur, which is in the Vidarbha region.
Earlier last month, after India's nail-biting victory over Bangladesh in the World Cup T20 quarter-finals, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan had tweeted his displeasure with a cricket commentator, who he didn’t name, saying Indian commentators talk more about foreign players than Indian ones.
T 2184 - With all due respects, it would be really worthy of an Indian commentator to speak more about our players than others all the time.— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) March 23, 2016
According to a Zee News report, Bachchan later added that his critical tweet did not refer to Sunil Gavaskar or Sanjay Manjrekar, which pretty much left meant Bhogle was the commentator in question.
India's cricket captain, M S Dhoni endorsed this comment with a cryptic "Nothing to add".
Nothing to add https://t.co/8rBel3vw4o— Mahendra Singh Dhoni (@msdhoni) March 23, 2016
Fans of the sport have not taken kindly to Bhogle’s sacking.
One parody account on Twitter, going by the handle "Sir Ravindra Jadeja", tweeted that the absence of Bhogle's commentary would be akin to Team India missing its current match-winner Virat Kohli.
Another parody account tweeted that Bhogle had paid the price for being a "moderate voice of sanity" in the age of pseudo-patriotism. The user went on to directly name Bachchan as one of those "pseudo-patriots".
Poor Harsha Bhogle is paying d price 4 being a moderate voice of sanity in d age of tri-colour waving pseudo-patriots lyk Amitabh Bachchan.— Fekendra Modi (@FekuModi) April 10, 2016
Actor and singer Ayushmann Khurrana tweeted about how Bhogle had helped him when he had hosted IPL3.
I was a nervous wreck while hosting IPL3, it was @bhogleharsha who dragged me to the commentary box to observe &learn. Miss u on the mic sir— Ayushmann Khurrana (@ayushmannk) April 10, 2016
A Twitter user under the handle "Râ's al Ghûl" referred to what is being seen as Bachchan's criticism of Bhogle and tweeted that "sly" tweets from the Bollywood star might have cost Bhogle his "livelihood".
Amitabh Bachchan evaded tax & no body batted an eye. Sly tweets about Harsha Bhogle and Harsha loses his livelihood. Wah re Bharat Mata.— Râ's al Ghûl (@TodgyF) April 10, 2016
Even Niti Aayog chief executive Amitabh Kant weighed in on the issue. However, despite his praise, Kant did not directly comment on Bhogle's ouster.