The sacking of Harsha Bhogle from the IPL commentary team has caused controversy for two reasons. Firstly, because he was incredibly popular -- a chuckling, avuncular figure whose voice was as familiar to the ears of cricket fans as the sound of tears is to a South African during a world tournament.
Like him or not, Harsha -- as his incredible social media following testifies -- has legions of fans who are now disgruntled at his sudden departure.
The second rather more sinister reason is that Harsha, for all his gifts as a commentator and analyst, was seen as a bit of a 'Yes-Man' for the BCCI, the organisation which has now dumped him without any explanation. There was a perception that he was happy to tow the line on most issues and especially those which could have pulled the BCCI ship into rocky waters -- such as DRS. So with that in mind it makes the decision to sack him even more intriguing -- why have the powers-that-be at BCCI chosen to shoot one of their loyal courtiers?
There have been rumours of senior Indian players being unhappy with some of Harsha’s words but, given his criticisms are couched in such verbal cotton wool they are at times hard to distinguish from compliments, this seems absurd if not wholly unbelievable.
Nevertheless, there now remains a vacancy within the IPL commentary box, so here’s a rundown of the possible candidates who could step into Harsha’s considerable shoes:
It’s not been a good couple of weeks for men with microphones, as just before Harsha got the boot, his longtime colleague in the box, Sunil Gavaskar, was also jettisoned for equally murky reasons. Sure he makes the occasional appearance in the broadcaster's studio, but its not the same as hearing his voice day in, day out. It was mooted Sunny had to go because he was so expensive he made Panama’s financial services industry look modest but, with cricket fans unhappy at all the culling of an established line-up, might the BCCI dig deep into their considerable pockets and bring back the legendary opener on a regular basis? Unlikely, but not impossible.
The BCCI could certainly save money here by just getting Danny Morrison, a man whose voice can interrupt thunder, to do the job of two commentators. Imagine this: Danny Morrison talking and then Danny Morrison talks back to Danny Morrison.
And if Bhogle was a “Yes man”, Morrison could be thought of as a “YES! YES! YES! Man”, always prepared to turn the mundane into the monumental, the boring into the ballistic. Favourite moment of the IPL so far: Our aural hero describing the Vivo hifi box as “The place to be! What a party!” shortly before the camera cut to a group of rather portly middle-aged men waving awkwardly from its balcony. What a party, indeed.
Who wouldn’t want a Double-Ds dose of Danny? Come on, BCCI. Get your dancing shoes on and let him do even more stints behind the mic!
Harsha is a successful businessman and motivational speaker as well as commentator so who better to step into his shoes than the lovable presidential candidate? Trump’s talent for dollars and rhetoric has shaken up American politics, albeit probably with the sort of unfortunate results you get if you shake up a can of Pepsi Max. Even with the gentler, post-Srinivasan BCCI being a little more conciliatory towards other boards, the billionaire’s “with us or against us” world view is still likely to find favour among many of the top brass. His position on blanket border controls for some religious groups will also fit in nicely with the IPL given the tacit ban on Pakistani players participating. Let’s make commentary great again!
Currently with a bit of time on her hands -- what with the Meldonium-induced suspension and all -- the fallen tennis ace would add a welcome touch of glamour to a commentary team whose celebrity status peaks if Laxman Sivaramakrishnan trims his moustache in a slightly snazzier way than usual. Sharapova isn’t known for her in depth cricket knowledge, as Sachin Tendulkar and his fans can testify, but she wouldn’t be the first foreign commentator - Yes, looking at you Michael Slater - to struggle with Indian names.
The Bollywood megastar is in some quarters thought to have influenced Harsha's sacking after he claimed in a tweet, wryly endorsed by MS Dhoni, that commentators should focus more on Indian players than the opposition. Alleging Bhogle is guilty of cricketing sedition is more ludicrous than accusing a lion of excessive vegetarianism, but if Amitabh thinks he can do better than Harsha, why not step up to the mic himself? In the IPL’s world of contrived emotions, perhaps an actor would actually be the best man for the job, although in league with over sixty overseas players it might test even the greatest of thespian talents to call a match without mentioning any foreigners.
So, there are the possible options. The most bizarre thing of everything is, of course, that a cricket board not a television company gets to decide who commentates at all. But, hey these are bizarre cricketing times! As Harsha Bhogle would doubtless confirm.
The writer tweets at @PavilionOpinion