If Anurag Thakur, the BCCI secretary, who shared the idea of creating a commentators academy on Thursday, heard laughter in the background, it must have been the chuckle of irony. Weeks after the mysterious case of Harsha Bhogle being dropped from the commentators panel for the IPL played out, Thakur was talking about training youngsters interested in commentary. Bhogle was the last non-player commentator who made it big — exactly the kind of people that the academy should ideally spot and hone — but his sacking has left a trail of red-hot clues that scream that anyone with an independent mind won’t be welcomed. The Indian board just needs your voice, not your mind.
What are the skills that will be honed at the BCCI’s academy? L’affaire Bhogle gives us some idea: How to make your voice more silky or hoarse, whichever is in fashion, how to rave about a mediocre cricket action, how to fight the BCCI’s case on matters ranging from DRS to pink ball, how to ensure you don’t speak a word the moment the final ball of the over gets over so that a quick cut to commercial can happen, and how to dress up in ethnic Indian wear occasionally, what to wonder about silently when Navjot Singh Sidhu is talking incessantly next to you, and how to talk up Indian players even if they are ordinary, and how to retweet Amitabh Bachchan.
It’s not as if Bhogle was a fiercely neutral voice who spoke his mind. If anything, he mostly towed the official line. But when the Indian cricket board has problems with someone like Bhogle, it says a lot about the thought process. As things stand, there is room, and a need, for independent young voices to come through. There aren’t too many places to pick up the skills, but an academy run by the paranoid Indian cricket board certainly can’t be the one.