Harsha Bhogle is likely to make a comeback as a big-time cricket commentator after a one-year hiatus in the coming Indian Premier League (IPL) in the pre- and post-match shows, the host broadcaster said on Tuesday.
Once a "few formalities" are over, Bhogle will be seen speaking his mind, not from the ground, but from studio in "IPL Extra Innings", the pre- and post-match shows accompanying every game.
Bhogle has remained off the air as a cricket commentator for a year after his comments in the box weren't well received by some members of the Indian cricket team and officials within the BCCI.
"We have used him in earlier years. He used to work with BCCI world feed commentary. Last year, he was not there but previous years he was part of BCCI," Sony Sports Cluster India Executive Vice President and business head Prasana Krishnan told the media.
"The way it works is, the main English commentary is produced by BCCI from the venue. Other languages and Extra Innings studio we do a separate broadcast. So, obviously because of the travel, logistics and different venues etc., it's very difficult for a person who is there on field to be available in studios for too many days."
"Harsha used to be with us in studios also for some time. This year we are hoping he will be back. It's not fair for me to make a definitive comment but he will be part of the team. There are no hurdles, just a few formalities," Krishnan confirmed.
The controversy rose last year when Bhogle's criticism of the Indian team wasn't well taken by Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, who indirectly took a shot at Bhogle.
This tweet was subsequently re-tweeted by former Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and complaints were made to the BCCI by Virat Kohli and Murali Vijay.
Bhogle was then cut at a late stage from the IPL 9 as well despite being part of its early production videos and promotion.
He then had said that it was done without any clear reason: "No one told me anything. I have not been formally told of the reason even now. All I have been told is 'it is a BCCI management decision'."
The BCCI, Krishnan said, does not have any problem if Bhogle is brought on board. "They don't have an objection in bringing Harsha."
Krishnan added that cricketer-turned-politician and popular commentator Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was inducted as a cabinet minister in the new Congress government in Punjab headed by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh recently, might not be available this time.
"Sidhu's availability is still doubtful. He will not be available for as many days as he was last year. That's for sure. It's now entirely on his hands how he will make time," he said.
The involvement of recently retired former India players with various franchises is a hurdle in roping them in for commentary during the IPL, Krishnan said.
"In IPL another challenge we face is lot of these former cricketers are involved with some franchise or the other," he said.
Asked about Sourav Ganguly, who, it has been reported, will do commentary in the ICC Champions Trophy starting from June, Krishnan said since he is now an administrator (president of Cricket Association of Bengal) it would be difficult for him to give time.
"Sourav Ganguly is an administrator. ICC is a different ball game. From a BCCI organised event, I don't think he will be available. For world feed, BCCI decides. If a person is already involved in something, it's difficult for him to make time," he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the IPL this time will be telecast in five regional languages -- Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali and Hindi.
Digitally though, Sony LIV would not show IPL matches as Hotstar has the rights.
"It is a unique proposition. This is a legacy thing so we had to give Hotstar the rights to show IPL matches digitally. Usually the television channel that shows a certain league has it's digital platform having the same also. But this won't be the case here," Krishnan said.