Harsha Bhogle: On embracing mistakes, managing self-esteem, and finding joy in the small things

In the first episode of investor Bala Srinivasa’s podcast Inner Reel, Harsha Bhogle reflects on life, his journey in finding his calling, dealing with adversity, and making it in broadcasting. Inner Reel is brought to you by boutique podcast production agency Design Your Thinking Labs.

Vast cricketing knowledge, quick repartee, a megawatt smile, and great articulation are just a few things that are synonymous with Harsha Bhogle, popularly known as the voice of Indian cricket. 

But what if you were to hear that the man who oozes confidence and grace on camera, still has an occasional case of nerves before live telecasting? Don’t believe us? Discover this and more, straight from the horse’s mouth in investor Bala Srinivasa’s first podcast episode Inner Reel, where he talks to Harsha in a freewheeling chat.

Guests who will be featured in the future episodes of Inner Reel podcast

Candid and unassuming, Harsha dives deep into his childhood days in Hyderabad, and attributes his parents and school for shaping those early experiences. “At school, we were encouraged to read out the news. So, while I was petrified of speaking in public, I would still learn my speech completely,” recalls Harsha. 

An alumnus of one of the oldest schools in Hyderabad, one that has “produced more CEOs than any other school in India,” Harsha is gleeful as he lists names like Satya Nadella, Shantanu Narayen, the Banga brothers, and P&G’s Shailesh Jejurikar as former alums. 

Many years later, when Harsha joined IIM Ahmedabad for his master’s degree, he reveals  he felt he was quite the misfit but passed out beaming with confidence. “I found that some of them (his peers) understood debit, credits,  and balances so much faster than I did. Just surviving in IIM Ahmedabad was one of my biggest achievements,” 

On being an outsider and owning it

For someone who had access to such privileged early education, and who eventually attained celebrity status as a commentator, Harsha has no hang ups admitting that he struggled with self-esteem issues. But he attributes it being a driving factor. “I had no option, I had to succeed. I was the most vulnerable, and therefore I had to try the hardest,” he says, revealing he was told many times that he never played the game professionally, so he didn’t belong in the field.

“If you portray energy, if you portray life, if you portray happiness, then the people in front of you start to get happy as well,” he says when asked about what keeps that megawatt smile going. “Can you get a bigger ticket in life than talking cricket? So the smile came easy,” he quips.

From being called an outsider to being voted ‘most favourite cricket commentator’ in a worldwide poll by Cricinfo in 2008, what drives Harsha through all the lows, the highs, and the pressure to perform? 

“A lot of people are afraid of going wrong. And if you are afraid of going wrong, you welcome it. It’s like a batsman who’s going out to bat in difficult conditions and who is constantly thinking, is this the ball that’s got my number on?! If you stop being afraid of the mistake, you make fewer mistakes.” It’s that simple for him. 

On talent, work ethic and self-worth

They say every person is born with talent. Then what is it that sets apart those who succeed? “Talent is the world’s most overrated thing in the world. Your work ethic determines where your talent is going to take you. For me, my work ethic was far more important,” says Harsha who admits that he still asks questions when he doesn’t know enough. 

In an age of social media and 15 minutes of fame, it’s harder than ever to find one’s self-worth. Harsha credits his son with helping him separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to online opinions. “We talk about reverse mentoring. I learn a lot from my two boys these days because they understand the world that they are living in better than my world which is now a little more distant compared to theirs. They say why are you getting affected by people who are not in your constituency? Don’t react..” 

Home is haven

A staunch feminist, Harsha says he has always put women on a pedestal. “My mother, my grandmother, my wife and my mother-in-law - all such extraordinarily tough human beings who took life head on and made the most of what life threw at them.”

Harsha, who is married to Anita, his classmate from IIM-A, says he is a big fan of marriage.

On modern day relationships, he says,

“I find a lot of young people thinking what could go wrong in a relationship and they are entering into one like it is a balance sheet, focusing too much on the debit than on the credit. Come what may, life is going to throw you debits anyway, accept it.” 

At 60, Harsha says he has finally slowed down. “I’ve learnt in the last couple of months to just chill, look at life outside and not compete every second with somebody. It’s becoming a little easier now…” 

Refreshingly simple and honest as always, listen to Harsha as he walks down memory lane, finds joy in the small things and draws more parallels between the cricketing and the outside world, only at the Inner Reel podcast here