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Shots of life

Catch Harsha Bhogle unplugged over soup and salad

"I WANT to have something very light," says the loquacious Harsha Bhogle, settling down at the Deccan Pavilion, ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel and Towers. The ace commentator avoids the buffet but asks for something he ordered in his room the day before - lemon vegetable clear soup and sprout salad. Something too light for the man who indulges in hearty talk. "As a kid I loved eating out especially the spicy food of Hyderabad. At 17, I gave up eating meat," says Bhogle, who is now very health conscious. "During travel (which is a lot) I avoid spicy food and prefer soups and salads. I am going easy on food these days as my cholesterol and triglycerides are a bit high. I include a lot of fibre in my diet. I am off sweets and deep-fried stuff." Isn't veggie food a problem abroad? "It's quite a struggle. Of course one gets lots of fruits and cheesy food like pasta and pizza (which I avoid). I like stir-fried greens (Chinese style) like broccoli, snow peas etc." Being health conscious means visiting the gym as regularly as possible.

Bhogle can watch anything on the telly - "it's there to entertain though there is nothing much stimulating. Watching TV can be relaxing at times. Over the last four-five years it's a struggle to watch it over long periods of time. There are too many ads in movies." However, he manages to catch a movie in the flight once in a while.

Bhogle was a voracious reader in his young age. "I am trying to get into the habit now. My pace of life is different now. One needs calmness and has to distance oneself for reading which is difficult. He manages to read one or two. "I found the book on Jesse Owens In Black and White an eye-opener.

Bhogle reads about cricket avidly on the net. Writing was his secondary profession. "I was hoping to be the best broadcaster and best writer. But I have lost the ability to research. I manage to do at least one article a week."

He then speaks of the presentations for corporates worked out by his wife Anita and him. "She writes the presentations and I provide the sports linkages. She is a great mother too," says Bhogle proudly. When he is off travel he likes to spend time with his two sons Chinmaya (class X) and Satchit (class V).

Bhogle has played enough cricket to understand, enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the game. He grew up admiring Sunil Gavaskar. "During the Australian tour of 1977-78 he showed that India could play fast bowlers. As a nation we have less confidence. We still think foreigners to be broadcasters and journalists - we don't see, or believe we can do so on our own."

Idols were a part of his life too. "I wanted to be like Ameen Sayani (Binaca Geetmala fame). I always looked up to my elder brother. Even do so now."

Some of the people he admires are Manmohan Singh ("my number one hero - he changed our life with the 1991 budget") A.R. Rahman ("he is a trailblazer with music for films such as Roja, Bombay, Rangeela and Lagaan"), Javed Akhtar, Abdul Kalam, Vishwanathan Anand, Gopichand, Indira Hinduja, Prannoy Roy, Narayanamurthy... These are India's real heroes. I like Indians who are world class, successful, simple and humble. One day I would like to do TV shows with such people I admire. I feel in order to succeed, you don't have to forget who you are." He adds the names of the top five in the Indian cricket in the list of simple, warm and friendly people - Sachin, Sourav, Rahul, Kumble and Laxman.

His take on women's cricket: "Women's cricket is suffering without money unlike in some countries where the men's and women's cricket associations have merged. There are world-class players like Mithali Raj (of Hyderabad) who set a world record. If there are more funds more women will play. It doesn't need to reach up to the men's level. The women's cricket team should have a trained physio to accompany them."

Is there a qualitative change in sports journalism now? "Now cricket needs a reviewer and not a reporter. That demands a skill but editors should demand that."

Mention his school quiz programme and his face lights up like a child. "I love the school quiz. The kids come from all over the country. There is a lot of intensity and enthusiasm in them. They train all year round. We will start again in April."

The thought of what he would do in the future "is scary. I don't know. I'm happy doing what I am doing. I want to spend time with the kids. May be books and TV programmes. I definitely would like to travel less."

Bhogle's parting shot alludes to the Indo-Pak series "we forget cricket is a sport. We give it ridiculous importance. Where are our priorities?"


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