“I THINK I WILL LIKE THIS PLACE”

ABC Cricket - - CONTENTS - HAR­SHA BHOGLE @BHOGLEHARSHA

Har­sha Bhogle re­flects on his 27 years of work­ing for the ABC.

For more than a quar­ter-cen­tury, Har­sha Bhogle has fol­lowed the In­dian cricket team to Aus­tralia. He is no longer a vis­i­tor – as he says, he re­turns to his home at the ABC.

Wide-eyed. Long hair. Big glasses. Vege­tar­ian. Tee­to­taller. Low on for­eign ex­change. A missed flight. No con­firmed ac­com­mo­da­tion. Broad­cast­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of three Test matches. You might say the odds weren’t in my favour when I landed, fi­nally, in Bris­bane at about 8am on the open­ing day of the first Test in Novem­ber 1991. By the time I reached the Queens­land Mo­tel, where my friend Kuldip Lal had al­lowed me to dump my bags, he was al­ready leav­ing for the game.

But Aus­tralia was kind to me on that first tour even though I strug­gled with the ac­cents and the com­men­tary style ini­tially. And I met some lovely peo­ple: Jim Maxwell and Tim Lane and, later, Glenn Mitchell be­came good friends. Once I had come to terms with Pe­ter Roe­buck’s ec­cen­tric­ity and his flights of in­tel­lect, he be­came a val­ued col­league and I dis­cov­ered the Aussies were easy peo­ple to get along with. Alan Marks was very en­cour­ag­ing and I still owe him a huge debt. The ABC didn’t sit in judge­ment over me, it ac­cepted me for who I was. The ABC was like a new home you move into and tell your­self “I think I will like this place”.

My ac­cent, my metaphors, my quirk­i­ness (gauche is a word that sat well on me), my in­abil­ity to ap­pre­ci­ate wine and Vegemite prob­a­bly made me a cu­rios­ity. And I was greatly amused, and to be hon­est, a bit over­whelmed, when a colum­nist called Su­san Kuro­sawa found my in­to­na­tion and voice “sexy”. I have of­ten been told there is lit­tle else to pin that ad­jec­tive onto! It has been 27 years since but Su­san, I am still look­ing for­ward to meet­ing you. Over a glass of red wine? A good Aussie shi­raz? That first visit to Aus­tralia, one that started amidst un­cer­tainty and ig­no­rance, was the turn­ing point in my life as a me­dia per­son. It opened up new worlds for me, brought me into con­tact with many nice peo­ple and be­gan an as­so­ci­a­tion with Aus­tralia that I am proud of and grate­ful for. I love the egal­i­tar­i­an­ism of

Aus­tralian so­ci­ety, I find most peo­ple car­ing and sen­si­tive (even if the men are al­most em­bar­rassed to ad­mit it!) and the only things I still haven’t come to terms with are Vegemite and sledg­ing.

The ABC has been my broad­cast­ing home ever since and I have re­turned to full Test tours in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2014 and for the World Cup of 1992 and 2015. I have had a ball and have sur­vived some won­der­fully weird mo­ments with Kerry O’Keefe in which, for some rea­son, he as­sumed I would know who Barry White was, or that I would have grown up on sto­ries of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo or that I was on back­slap­ping terms with the weather man in Dar­win! But Kerry, you chick­ened out of the Naga chilli chal­lenge!

Jim Maxwell threw me into a com­men­tary stint with John Howard be­cause, he said, the Prime Min­is­ter was late and the ros­ter had to be fol­lowed. So typ­i­cally Jim – fair to a fault. Not for the first time I was lost and ended up invit­ing him to the Eden Gar­dens. He said he might be oc­cu­pied at the time and one Aus­tralian news­pa­per in­ter­preted that as the first sign of early elec­tions! I bum­bled my way through a few things!

In­dia has pro­vided Aussie view­ers with some good cricket and favourable re­sults, a com­bi­na­tion that makes for pop­u­lar tourists. The pitches here have al­lowed bats­men to trust the bounce and each of In­dia’s greats has left a foot­print be­hind: Ten­dulkar at Perth, Dravid at Ade­laide, Gan­guly at Bris­bane, Lax­man at Syd­ney, Se­hwag at Mel­bourne and Kohli at Ade­laide. The 2003-04 tour was mag­nif­i­cent, 2007-08 grew ugly and con­fronta­tional and pro­vided the only oc­ca­sion in Aus­tralia I would like to for­get, while 2014-15 showed the prom­ise of the fu­ture. The greats, on their last legs,

THE ONLY THINGS I STILL HAVEN’T COME TO TERMS WITH ARE VEGEMITE AND SLEDG­ING.

fal­tered in 2011 and so In­dia has yet to win a se­ries in Aus­tralia.

Can 2018-19 be when that hap­pens for the first time? It is within the realms of pos­si­bil­ity as Aus­tralia pre­pares for the se­ries with its weak­est bat­ting line-up that I have ever seen. I never thought I would come to Aus­tralia for a Test se­ries in which In­dia started favourites. But new winds are blow­ing at home. This will be the fittest In­dian side to tour and ear­lier this year in Eng­land, the four quick­est bowlers of the eight on dis­play were all In­di­ans. You might have to scour the hori­zon for a qual­ity spin­ner but young men who want to fling the ball hard at the bats­man are mush­room­ing ev­ery­where.

They will give Aus­tralia’s bats­men a hard time and Steve Smith and David Warner, re­cip­i­ents of rather harsh sen­tences, will be missed very of­ten.

And I am look­ing for­ward to call­ing the ac­tion again. My ac­cent hasn’t changed and maybe I am no longer the cu­rios­ity I was all those years ago. I will have ac­cess to a few more dol­lars than I had then, I en­joy an odd glass of Aussie red and will re­new my love of cof­fee in Mel­bourne. Aus­tralia con­tin­ues to be kind to me, and I get to go to some beau­ti­ful places. Is there a pret­tier part of the world than the Whit­sun­day Is­lands in north­ern Queens­land?

Our coun­tries must come closer. Hope­fully tours like this one will act as bridges be­tween cul­tures. In­dia has changed enor­mously, un­be­liev­ably, since I first left home to come and call cricket here and the Aussies who are part of the mass mi­gra­tion ev­ery April (oth­er­wise called the IPL!) will bear tes­ti­mony to that. There are now more In­di­ans in Aus­tralia than ever be­fore. Hope­fully these are good signs. And hope­fully more wide-eyed gauche young men and women, like that fel­low in 1991, will travel and build bridges be­tween our coun­tries.

That will be nice.

While Bhogle was still learn­ing Aussie cul­ture, he had to han­dle a visit from PM John Howard.

Mem­o­ries of the greats: watch­ing the ma­jes­tic Rahul Dravid inAde­laide in 2003 ...

... And the not-so-good times: Sy­monds, Harb­ha­jan and 2007-08 – the only oc­ca­sion Bhogle would rather for­get.

Through all the changes in Aus­tralia and In­dia over time, cricket has brought the two na­tions closer.

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