The Cricket Chemist: Harsha Bhogle

The man of his stature needs no introduction.But it would be too naive on my part if I don’t say a couple of sentences.

Without an iota of doubt Harsha Bhogle is the best English cricket commentator in the world right now. The way he talks, portrays an altogether different image of our nation- India. I’ve grown up listening to his commentary right from 1992 world cup when I was two and I can admit the fact that till date I haven’t seen anyone speaking with such wisdom and chivalry. He is my role model and is amongst very few people who have actually inspired me in my life.

I have this dream, the day I retire from my profession(whatever I do) I wish to depart either with the kind of respect what Rahul Dravid or Harsha Bhogle have attained from the cricketing fraternity.

Let me take some pride in sharing some of my all time favourite quotes of Mr. Harsha Bhogle –

The Alchemist :Harsha Bhogle

The Alchemist :Harsha Bhogle

  1. Well we let you rule our nation for so many years. I believe that’s the least you can do for us. “- This was quoted to Nasser Hussain when the English curator provided the Indians a turning track in the 2014 champions league final against England and when India went on to lift the cup in the post match presentation Harsha applauded the young Indian team’s effort and presented this rhetorical statement “The sun is setting down in England and now maybe the sun is rising in Indian Cricket”.
  2. This was in conversation with Ian Chappell. India’s 9th wicket fell, the No.11, Narendra Hirwani came out to bat. The commentator (Ian Chappell) asked Harsha whether Hirwani could bat. Harsha replied:”If you make a team with all the number 11s of all the teams, Hirwani would still come at No.11 in the line up“.
  3. After Anil Kumble scored his maiden ton, this is what Harsha had to say:”This is the most romantic moment in Indian Cricket!”In the same match Ricky Ponting had set a much unfurled field for Kumble allowing him to take a single with a only a couple of men in the circle. Harsha said-”Kumble would take a photograph of this and show to his grand children and say that this was the field that Brett Lee had for me when I was 37!”
  4. Once, Chris Gayle was demolishing the opposition in the Indian Premier League. Every other ball had to be brought back to the park and at that moment Harsha responded in his canny manner “6 and 4 seems to have become the new Binary Code for this man.
  5. Geoffrey Boycott during one of the lunch breaks: Sachin maybe a great batsman but he has never been on the Lords honours boards! Harsha Bhogle snapped: So whose loss is it more, Sachin’s or the honours boards?
  6. In one of the games, Dravid left an unplayable delivery while batting. To this Gavaskar, who was commenting alongside Harsha got impressed (which seemed to be Sunny’s favourite shot, considering his slow and defensive style of playing back then) and went on appreciating Rahul for a long time. Then Harsha replied, “Sunny, you nearly got an orgasm of happiness, didn’t you!” after that both went berserk laughing.
  7. Harsha Bhogle during the commentary on Rahul Dravid, in his first and last T20 international game, said this masterpiece quote “Ask him to walk on Water today!! He’ll say OK. Ask him to jump off a cliff with the form he is in  with a parachute  and he’ll say I don’t need it”   This is one of my personal favourite as he whacked 3 consecutive sixes in that  game and retired from that  format like a boss.
  8. After seeing a splendid straight drive from the Little Master Harsha said, “Suddenly the world looks like a better place “and I can remember another one on Sachin. Well, Harsha used to like him to the core. It was like, once India lost two early wickets in a crucial game and to the contrary the crowd went frenzied (as they saw the Master blaster arriving). To that, he said “Eruption of joy at the fall of an Indian wicket can only mean one thing”.
  9. Once Dhoni had bowled Suresh Raina before the lunch Geoffrey Boycott during the lunch: What kind of a bowler he is? Even my grandmother could hit him out of the park!Harsha Bhogle: Your grandmother was the greatest batsman known to mankind! She could come down on a sticky wicket and score a hundred before lunch.
  10. India versus. England 2002: When Sachin once got out on a dolly facing a part time spinner Harsha said, “Oh what a shame. It was reminiscent of a soldier who survived the war when all the bullets were flying by his nose and then got run over by a bicycle in his native town.
  11. This one is from the Ind -Aus test at Chennai when Ashwin joined Dhoni at the crease – “Dhoni is extremely quick between the wickets, and Ashwin, let us just say he has other skills”. In a match against England, he mocked Ashwin again. That time Ashwin had just come to the crease and he started playing some playing unconventional cricket shots. To that, he told “Ashwin has just played 3 shots that no father will ever teach to his child.”
  12. In a test match in England, Umpire Rudi Koertzen was spotted grinning due to some fielding fiascos. On that he whipped “Oh, Rudi Koertzen is smiling, last time he smiled, there was peace in west Asia.
  13. This is from the NatWest trophy final, July 13, 2002 Lord’s. When the callow Yuvraj got out chasing England’s 326 Harsha said “Yuvraj Singh will realize that this will be his longest walk back to the pavilion “. In the same match after Nasser’s lucky (which resulted after a lot of miss timed shots and edges here and there) ton he told “Nasser Hussain is trying desperately hard to find innovative ways of getting himself out. At last when Kaif was cruising India’s ship to victory the expert commented “if you are not watching this segment of play, don’t ever call yourself a cricket lover any more.You are watching cricket of a very high order here”.
  14. Here’s an old one. At Perth Adam Gilchrist took a blinder and he described Gilly’s dive as – “Some of the sea-gulls flying here are going to get a complex.
  15. Once Smith dropped Sachin in a Test match at a vital stage that actually costed them the game. To that he responded “Graeme Smith would be hoping that the world under his feet opens up and he would find a crevice large enough for him to slip through.”
  16. In a SL-Aus game when Harsha said this to Ian Chappell, “I am sure you’ll never become a lawyer, I understand everything you say “he was left dumbstruck.
  17. Once he was hosting the ICC Awards before the T20 World Cup and he called on Jonty Rhodes to present an award. As Rhodes began walking down the stairs, Harsha exclaimed, ”it’s pretty unusual to see Jonty walk down the stairs, I thought he might slide down them!”
  18. In one of the T20 games in Australia, wickets started to fall like a pack of cards. To that he said -” This series is sponsored by KFC and the wickets are falling faster than their deliveries.”
  19. Once Gambhir was dropped twice on consecutive deliveries, – “We should conduct a dream job in Australia & the winner will get to stand in the slip region.
  20. Dhoni was batting and Kumble was at the non striker’s end. Dhoni called for a tight single, and what Harsha told still cracks me up.” Dhoni scrambles for a single and causes Anil Kumble and all of his 37 years to rush to the other end.”
  21. After Shaun Tait did not live up to the hype Australian media had created around him, punter took him off the attack. Harsha, in his own inimitable style: ‘Shaun Tait should go up to Ricky Ponting and say ” Hello Mr Ponting, my name is Shaun Tait, and I am supposed to take 45 wickets in this test match “and I think in the same game when Michael Clarke was caught at slip off Kumble, he was still waiting for the decision, over this he taunted,” I think he is waiting for tomorrow’s newspaper to declare him out”
  22. Once Laxman was fighting for a game with the Indian tail.RP Singh was his partner. Aussies wanted Laxman to go off strike so that they could attack RP. Thus, they spread out the field completely, with only the keeper, one slip and one gully inside the 30 yards circle. But Laxman went on shielding RP for so many overs and when RP came on strike Harsha laughed and said “Now suddenly, Don Bradman is batting out there in the middle.”
  23. During the 2014 Ind-Eng series, when Matt Prior was constantly chirping from behind, to that he said,” This guy must have swallowed a dictionary
  24. When the Indian skipper Dhoni lost the toss on a trot Harsha remarked, “MS DHONI has yet again called for heads to the coin which has two tails”
  25. “Robin Uthappa will write in his CV – Played for India as batsman at No 8 when Irfan Pathan was prompted at 3 “, this was quoted in the Melbourne ODI.
  26.  I just wonder can Zaheer write a letter to BCCI, can I get fielders who can take catches” after 2 catches were dropped in one Zaheer Khan’s over (England 2007)
  27. In an IPL match when Dwayne Smith very luckily survived 3 times, Harsha said “After the match I am taking Smith to a Casino
  28. Admiring Sachin “The greatness of a batsman is not measured by the number of big innings he has played, its measured by the standard deviation of his scores from his average. That is the hallmark of a consistent batsman and that’s what makes Sachin Tendulkar the greatest batsman on Earth”.
  29. India doesn’t have a set fast bowling attack, describes about some bowlers and our Pravin Kumar has vanished. To that Sunil Gavaskar asked, “Vanished or banished”? In his legendary style Harsha replied “Well if you are from Bengal, both mean the same. He actually vanished though!”
  30. In one of the IPL games seeing a lot of slow stuff from Rajat Bhatia, “Any bowler has three pace variations- fast, medium slow but this guy has slow, slower and slowest.”
  31. After his recent sparkling performance against India in the test series, “Stuart Broad is the kind of player we all love to hate, but secretly admire.”
    Harsha -The Alchemist

Finally I shall sum up the post with something that I relate the most to “If you really want something, you will get it and there is no scientific explanation for this.”

The fact that he is a chemical Engineer; I strongly feel he is that sort of a chemist who,with every game makes the world of cricket a healthy and fun place through his delightful insights just like an experienced chemist would contribute to the field of medical sciences.

Thank you for everything Harsha.

One people! One nation! One destiny!

“Look at the eyes,the concentration. Trying to scare the batsman! I reckon this one will be straight at the jaws as well. Oh it’s a good bouncer that just missed his nose. That was a fine aggressive nasty delivery. ”

The moment I hear it, I get become hysterical and the first thing that pops up is the ferocious West Indian pace attack of the 70s. Let me take some pride in sharing how the Caribbean boys became invincible.

During the 1960s and 70s Blacks were not regarded as equals. That was the time, the heat was on for them to get up, stand up and deliver for their respect. Cricket was an instrument of colonialism for the whites and was very much seen in imparting English aristocratic values to the blacks. In West Indies cricket is something that flows in the blood. They play cricket for the value of the cricket. Their history has been a long and painful struggle against the forces that denied and depressed them. Babylon! And it was only through the same cricket, they could win their long lost respect (which meant freedom to them) back.

But there was a big catch to it. Initially, there were sparks and flashes of individual geniuses but it never resulted into West Indian victories. It was like a bunch of non serious locals playing it for fun and frolic. You could read “Calypso boys collapse again.” very frequently with every country they toured.

Their team had no backbone .They desperately needed someone who could hold the people together. Someone, who could bond them and inspire them for the common goal of being victorious, they needed a composed figure and then Clive Lloyd debuted in 1966.He made the gang into a team by giving direction. He was a great thinker and everybody respected him as a leader. He wanted to have a different team with a different thinking. His mentoring instilled the thought process that look “we are strong people, we are here to win”.

Clive Lloyd- The captain. The Leader . The Father.

Clive Lloyd- The captain. The Leader . The Father.

In 1975, the young and inexperienced WI side travelled to Australia to face the champions on their own soil. During that era in Test cricket, a set of fast bowlers(fast as in really fast people who bowled at 90-95 miles an hour and that  extra dimension decided whether you get hurt or not ) were used as a parameter to distinguish between a good side and a quality team. Wait; let me tell you Australia was the number one ranked team. All thanks to Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee – these names were ruthless enough to scare any God damn batsman. They were truly intimidating. Their ideologies were simple – “Once you have the capability to hurt someone with a bullet in your hand, the person facing you isn’t thinking of hitting the ball, he is thinking of self preservation.”

The Ugly Aussies-Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson

The Ugly Aussies-Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson

During the game all you could hear was LILLEEE-LILLEEE -KILL -KILL -KILL!! Out there it was a war. There were injuries, broken fingers and jaws EVERYWHERE. It was a humiliating sight; like a military assault on the West Indian cricket. That was a nasty series with a lot of confrontations both on and off the field. Australians played like seasoned campaigners and they literally screwed the Caribbean bolts. Test cricket wasn’t a gentleman’s game anymore; there were chants of “You black cunts! Go back to your trees” after the Score line (AUS 5 – WI 1) was displayed.

Once they came back, they realised everything was at stake. WI cricket was at the crossroads. Their own people had turned hostile and that sort of environment could either make you or break you and they didn’t have a choice. They didn’t want any crumps, they wanted the loaf. They knew that there was no going back and it was cricket, which had to pave the way for their better future.

Clive stood strong and said never again! If we also can find some good fast bowlers who are just as quick as they are or even quicker that’s it. He went into the Caribbean, looking for genuine spearheads that could fit into his plan – “One people! One nation! One destiny!”.

Geographically speaking Caribbean islands are the countries/ islands which are surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. Some of the well known islands are Barbados, Antigua, Jamaica and Trinidad. All have diff Governments, diff attitudes towards diff things but everyone is united by a common banner that is the West Indian cricket. Their cricket speaks for all the different accents and forces out there.

Caribbean Kings sharing  a jolly moment after the hunt.

Caribbean Kings sharing a jolly moment.Michael Holding,Andy Roberts,Joel Garner,Colin Croft and Viv Richards(from Left to Right)

Initially his two major findings were Michael Holding and Andy Roberts.

“When you look at Michael Holding carrying a ball in his hand; what you are looking at is an African individual with African rhythm born to just bowl .Michael with that stride would put that fear into any batsman.” These were his exact words on Michael Holding .He was a young man, who just knew how to bowl quick and knock the timber out. He was popularly called as whispering death, because of the way he used to run while bowling. It resembled the way how a cobra takes it stride calmly, hypnotises it’s a prey and them hunts him down.

Andy Roberts: One of the hard noses! A warrior, who took his fast bowling more seriously than anything and bowled fearlessly without a smile”.Never show any emotions, so that nobody knows what to expect “was his mantra. He had two different bouncers. The first one was the one that could be hooked for a boundary effortlessly while the second one was with the same action but thrown with a greater force. It aimed straight at the batsman’s face with the sole motive of inducing a great deal of pain to him. He was the original lead of the pace attack. The Hitman!

Not long after that the Indians toured the Caribbean islands. Lloyd was eager to banish their humiliation and wanted to show that they had a character to win. West Indians made India buckle and wounded. Gavaskar surrendered that match as a sign of protest. Killer instincts floored the Indians and battered Indies hit back mercilessly.

Now, aggression meant passion for them and they bowled belligerently to kill! They were on a mission. A mission in which they believed in the fact that they were as good as anyone (referring to Aus and England).They instilled fear in every batsman’s heart. They wanted to prove the world what these bunch of black guys were capable of. They were playing to make their people proud.

In 1976 they toured to England to beat their former masters.

“You brought the game to us and we are better than you “every guy in the team wanted to demonstrate it to the Englishmen. Losing a battle or a territory was acceptable to the whites but not a test match from the blacks. Tony Greig made a statement -“make them grovel “just before the commencement of the series, that acted as a catalyst in igniting the Caribbean spirits exponentially. Clive responded with a vengeance “Guys need not say much. Our man on the television has just said it all. We know what to do now” and everyone took that seriously. VERY VERY SERIOUSLY! That comment alone was enough to set the tone for the series.” FOCUS TO DEMOLISH “became the Caribbean motto. The bowlers turned the heat on and made the whites beg for mercy. That by far, was the hottest English summer ever. Nobody wanted Tony to get caught or leg before, they just wanted to knock his timbers out of the grooves and they did it with absolute perfection. That’s one thing I’ve learnt personally as well from them “Forgive but never forget!

Score line read Eng 0 – WI 3.

Through cricket it was a message to the white world to abort this racism by defeating it on the field of play.

During 1977-1978, Kerry Packers’ World Series cricket sharpened their skills. They were a much more lethal and professional team by then. The other two finds for Clive were- Joel Garner and Colin Croft.

Joel Garner-The big bird (debuted 1977): 6′ 8”, someone who either aimed at your toes or neck. Garner relied more on accuracy than on lightning pace and was termed brutal when it came to the bounce.

Colin Croft (The smiling assassin).”Croft goes for the throat. “Chants were viral when he used to bowl. His action was the most complicated part about his life .The prancing run was straight but the batsman saw only his head bobbing behind the umpire until he veered out wide of the crease just prior to delivery, leaning back and slanting the ball awkwardly in to the right-hander. He was a menace to the batsman fraternity. He would knock you down and would simply laugh at you for hours. You do not get to see such raw characters these days.

Quartet broke the mph limit. All 4 could bowl at stupendous pace and were rightly called as terrorists, dangerous or even murderers. They were on top of their game. All of them! After defeating England, they had traversed a long journey- from being called as the third world citizens to the pioneers of the game.

Let’s talk about the most significant part in their cricket history. They decided to tour Australia in 1979.With every day passed; they were made to relive 1975. Everywhere they were made to watch the highlights of the massacre that took West Indian cricket for a toss 4 years back.  *“We must beat Aus at all costs. I didn’t matter how we did it but we had to, UGLY NICE PSYCHOLOGICALLY PHYSICALLY any adverb that comes to your mind put it ” – Colin Croft

The Ozies were the masters of sledging back then as well. Once Lillee signalled Viv that he was going to blow off his fucking head on the next bowl and he literally meant that. To the contrary the West Indians were ready to take them on this time. Viv in particular was very clear.” I don’t want any helmets or any sort of protection. The only way I smell defeat is if I’m knocked down and that won’t happen. Bring it on!! “- were his exact words in one of the games in that series.

The same Australians who were so damn aggressive while bowling were crying when the Caribbean quartet came onto bowl. The harder they bowled, the harder they fell! Game after game, they kept on building the pressure and slowly hammered them into the ground.

Australia 0 – WI 2

Wow that indeed was special for West Indies. They had become the best team in the world and their joy was beyond any words. The world saw the emergence of a whole new breed of people and culture. Even the term whitewash was renamed to “blackwash” after that. Black was the new brave.

Bob Marley- The legendary Jamaican singer

Bob Marley- The legendary Jamaican singer

Cheers to their spirit. Now plug-in to Bob Marley’s “Get up, stand up!” and feel their glory!

PS: Listening to the same song in loop on India’s 68th Independence Day
* References from the movie Fire in Babylon.