Is Harsha Bhogle entitled to opine on cricket or not?

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Kolkata: First-hand experience does not qualify a person to rubbish opinions of lesser mortals and even take swipes at them on air. If you are wondering what we are delving into, it is with reference to the on-air verbal spat between Sanjay Manjrekar and Harsha Bhogle over the visibility factor of the pink-ball during India’s maiden Test under lights.

While Bhogle, with no ‘experience’ of playing even at the domestic level proposed a discussion with the Indian batsmen about whether they could see the pink-ball well enough, Manjrekar gloating about his stint with international cricket, disagreed. And what was somewhat disgraceful and disparaging was his arrogance that hasn’t gone down well with followers of the game.

Look around, some of the most successful coaches in soccer have hardly had an enviable repertoire as players to display. Sir Alex Ferguson, worshipped as one of the most successful soccer managers of all time, never ever played for his country Scotland. But was that a deterrent while he was coaching Manchester United? Carlos Bilardo and Sir Matt Busby were never legends during their playing days, but their records as football managers speak volumes of their concept about the game. Tennis benefitted manifold by the contributions of Brad Gilbert, Mike Estep, Robert Lansdorp and others.

Perhaps, Manjrekar was missing out on some pertinent points. Over the years, we have had successful coaches, selectors and commentators with minimum or zero experience of playing for their countries. And the trend is not confined just to cricket.

Look around, some of the most successful coaches in soccer have hardly had an enviable repertoire as players to display. Sir Alex Ferguson, worshipped as one of the most successful soccer managers of all time, never ever played for his country Scotland. But was that a deterrent while he was coaching Manchester United? Carlos Bilardo and Sir Matt Busby were never legends during their playing days, but their records as football managers speak volumes of their concept about the game. Tennis benefitted manifold by the contributions of Brad Gilbert, Mike Estep, Robert Lansdorp and others.

Closer home, how can we forget Ramakant Achrekar to whom we are indebted for giving us a cricketer called Sachin Tendulkar? Or what about, former Australian cricket coach John Buchanan, under whose coaching the Aussies had an invincible run? You have to literally struggle to trace his stats as a cricketer but not as a coach.

Neville Cardus was one cricket writer, whose opinions and observations were admired by even top-class cricketers. He didn’t have any international cap to his credit but is revered as arguably the best cricket writer ever. We have also had the privilege of listening to Narottam Puri and Henry Blofeld who never had the fortune of Manjrekar to have graced the game on the greens.

Bhogle has lived the game throughout. He breathes cricket and his credibility as an expert cannot be shrugged aside. It’s of little significance that he has not worn the Indian colours like Manjrekar. But he has been sharing the commentary box with the greats of the game for so many years and is held in high esteem. Nowhere does he look or sound out of place.

You need not be a megastar in your heydays to be taken seriously as an expert. How many international matches do the Indian bowling and batting coaches Bharat Arun and Vikram Rathore have in between them? Let’s not even get into figures, but the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma, R Ashwin and others are under their tutelage. Arun deserves credit for unleashing a destructive seam attack which has the potential to wreak havoc anywhere in the world.

Manjrekar was rooted as an extremely gifted batsman who would serve country for a long period. But his career ended without even a whimper. Tendulkar and he were foretold as the mainstays of Indian batting in the ’90s, but Manjrekar disappointed big time (37 Tests and 74 ODIs). But does his almost dismal record bar him from commentating? No, it doesn’t.

Bhogle has lived the game throughout. He breathes cricket and his credibility as an expert cannot be shrugged aside. It’s of little significance that he has not worn the Indian colours like Manjrekar. But he has been sharing the commentary box with the greats of the game for so many years and is held in high esteem. Nowhere does he look or sound out of place.

Let’s put it this way! It ultimately boils down to your observation power, which coupled with research can stand you in good stead. Manjrekar and Bhogle must have closed the chapter and moved on, but cricket lovers may not have been impressed at the verbal tussle that was in bad taste, courtesy Manjrekar’s implicit but deplorable tom-tomming.

Mr. Manjrekar, you may have had the distinction of playing for your country, but that doesn’t give you the leverage to show disdain towards others with lesser exposure. Read up to know the truth.

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