Rising above the ordinary

OUT OF THE BOX
Harsha Bhogle
Penguin, 2009,
pp 275, Rs 450

 On television, he probably is a little too generous with them, but as a ‘colour’ person, that is perhaps his brief and his speciality. When he writes, however, he commands attention with his flowing style that fuses sport, politics, business, you name it, most seamlessly.

In many ways, Bhogle is a pioneer, the man who put Indian radio and television commentating on the world map in his status as a non cricket-playing analyst. Bhogle is perhaps in a class of one because increasingly and almost without exception, television commentating in particular has become the bastion of the former player, preferably the former international player. That the erudite, exciting and excitable Bhogle has more than held his own amongst the likes of Geoffrey Boycott and Ian Chappell is a tribute to his hold over his trade.

Several exceptional television pundits will also acknowledge the vast difference in and demands of writing as compared to the spoken word. It’s one thing calling the game as you see it, quite another organising your thoughts and putting pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard, as it were! That’s where Bhogle scores, because he is as at home in print as he is on television.

Out Of The Box is more a literary compilation than composition, bringing together several of Bhogle’s columns in The Indian Express on one single platform. It’s a collection well worth preserving, as much for its literary skills as for the passion and spirit with which every single column has been authored, and for the consistency with which Bhogle has painted pretty pictures over an extended period of time.
Whilst he might be a traditionalist at heart, it’s perhaps in tune with the modern trend that Bhogle begins the book with numerous pieces on the Twenty20 format that has spread like wildfire. In a way, it’s surprising that that should be the case; in another, it is not quite so because eventually, the modern is so often the master of tradition, whether one likes it or not.

Bhogle’s constant grouse — tirade might be too strong — against the administration has been well documented, because he sincerely believes that there is so much more that can be done by the officialdom to make cricket more appealing and friendly, both for the players and the paying public that has made sport the industry and religion it is in India today. A fair few in India hold a similar opinion, but may not have the platform to air their views. They will identify with a kindred soul, even if the officialdom itself might view it as the convenient harangue of a passionate outsider playing to the galleries.

At no stage in his broadcasting career has Bhogle made any effort to hide his affection for Tendulkar the cricketer and Tendulkar the human being. Having interacted closely with the little man over the years, Bhogle is in perfect position to provide an insight into what makes Tendulkar the champion he is. Out Of The Box rises above the ordinary on several counts. Tendulkar calls it an inspiration for ‘readers to chase their own dreams’. How’s that for an endorsement!

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