Saturday, November 12, 2011

Harsha Bhogle - TV Commentator/ Presenter/ journalist/ motivational speaker/ author

An Interview with Mr. Harsha Bhogle
TV Commentator/ Presenter/ journalist/ motivational speaker/ author

In this month’s Vartalaap we have with us Mr.Harsha Bhogle. He recently launched his book The Winning Way co-authored with his wife Mrs. Anita Bhogle. He completed his chemical engineering from Osmania University, Hyderabad and later went on to graduate from IIM Ahmedabad. After graduation, he worked at Rediffusion DY&R for a couple of years before becoming involved with cricket commentary full time. Mr. Bhogle was recently voted the favourite TV cricket commentator by Cricinfo users based on a worldwide poll. Mr. Bhogle has also anchored BBC's travel serial Travel India and ESPN School Quiz and Debate competitions. He is one of the most famous faces on Indian Television today and is widely known in academic as well as corporate circles for his motivational speeches.

Q1. From a Chemical Engineering degree in Osmania University, followed by IIM A and to being a Cricket Commentator. How has your journey been through such diverse roles?
To be honest, they didn't feel so diverse at the time. Each time I was doing what I thought was obvious. As a young kid out of school you did what everyone else did--try to get into an engineering college, then you tried to get into a Management school but the real change came later. In fact it was a few years after I started working that a career in cricket became a possibility. Even then it wasn't particularly remunerative but Management graduates five years into a job didn't earn too much either. So though it seems in retrospect that there was a slot waiting to be filled, it wasn't really that way. Things happened along the way and while I find it very difficult to talk about myself (if it isn't already apparent), I will say this: you need to work very hard even if an opportunity isn't round the corner. Then, when the opportunity does come you will be ready for it. In our book, and our talks, we often ask the question: how much are you willing to do for no reward? And since I loved cricket so much, I was doing a lot even if I wasn't queuing up for a reward.

Q2. How did you find out that cricket commentary was your calling? Were you interested in commentary even when involved as a player for the Osmania University?
To be honest, yes, I was. I remember taking a cassette recorder (one of those big ones!) to one of my games and recording some commentary while our openers were playing. That is what I first submitted to All India Radio. I was a decent player but I don't think I thought enough about my game to go much further. And so, given that I had fair language skills my father thought a combination might be a good idea and Hyderabad was generous enough to give a kid a go.

Q3. You are involved in a lot of speaking assignments and invariably interact with a wide variety of audience. What kind of ‘learning’ do these assignments provide you with?
I have learnt a lot through our speaking assignments (The Winning Way) and it is fair to say that I have tried to become like the person I recommend people to be while speaking. Even more, I have gained from working with Anita who is an extraordinary thinker. These assignments have had us thinking about sport from a different perspective, about the challenges within, the requirements of teams, the dynamics within, the qualities of winners and much more. Sport is such a wonderful theatre where you must summon all your skills at the precise moment. There is much to learn from what quality sportsmen do even though it is just as true that they have much to learn from what good managers achieve!

Q4. Tell us a little about your new book "The Winning Way: Learning from Sport Managers" co-authored with your wife Mrs Anita Bhogle. What was the genesis of the book?
We had been thinking about writing a book based on the many, and varied, experiences we have had with Indian corporations and sportspeople. It seemed a natural extension of what we were doing. It is very different compared to a speaking assignment where you can afford a throwaway line depending on how receptive the audience is. With a book, the level of rigour has to be greater and that is where we were able to combine my experience of writing with Anita's planning and rigour (though as it turned out, she wrote a major part of the book too!)

Q5. Do you think Sports, in India, is more of a ‘business’ than it was, say, a decade ago? If yes, would you consider this a good sign that sports is seen as serious business rather than just a game?
Largely, yes. Still, it is not much bigger than a single product business. Football, I believe, has potential and once we are able to rid ourselves of bureaucratic and political inefficiencies we might have a multi-product business! I believe that eventually we have no choice but to adopt a business approach to the running of sport. It is a thought that has seen much criticism directed towards it for the fear that finance will take over sport. It is not something I agree with. To achieve profitability you will have to look for product quality first. Governments cannot be in business. They can lay down guidelines, they can monitor them to see if there is any injustice taking place, but Governments cannot have the corporate rigour and the emotion that running sport requires. I look forward to the day the government relinquishes control and who knows it might well happen soon.

Q6. India is a cricket obsessed country. Why do you think India lags behind in producing world class sportspersons on a regular basis in other sports?
You cannot produce a great car if you are not in love with producing it. The quality of our non-cricket administration is very ordinary (not that cricket is particularly brilliant!) and to be really honest, I am not convinced that they actually want to produce champions or set in place a process that will aid the production of champions. And so our non-cricket sportsmen have to first win the fight against their own administration before they can take on an opponent on the court or in the field of play. It is very disheartening, though we are seeing islands of excellence still coming through.

Q7. Looking back at your career, what would you call your most satisfying moment/assignment through the myriad number of different things you have done?
Unlike with a sportsman who can point towards winning a World Cup or an important test or a Tournament final, it isn't easy for me to pick a moment or an assignment. To be accepted in an area where the general perception, even if erroneous, is that only former sports people can be good, is an honour. I am almost a relic and perhaps the last of my genre going around. When ESPN Star Sports chose to call their talent search "Hunt for Harsha" I was deeply moved. And I am very proud of being part of "The Winning Way". Being accepted by Corporate India, which I believe is very intelligent and competitive, is an honour too. But more than anything else, getting into IIM-Ahmedabad and being accepted there will have to be the highest moment.

Q8. What would be your advice for the readers of this magazine, and also for graduates aspiring for a career in Sports Management?
I don't know about sports management but what I do know is that if you seek to practice excellence and accept the rewards that come your way, you will be much better off. Far too often, we seek the reward; we seek the result, and ignore what is most likely to take us there in the first place. It can be a deeply rewarding experience to try and become the best player you can become. That is all i can say for advice can be very over-rated!

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