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Harsha Bhogle gets candid about ‘Ultimate Sports Quiz’

Through the show, the makers are attempting to create ‘a little sporting culture in India’

Saionee Chakraborty | Published 06.06.22, 12:55 AM
Harsha Bhogle

Harsha Bhogle

Sourced by the correspondent

Harsha Bhogle feels ‘quizzing is a form of sport that isn’t too removed from batting and bowling’. And the quizmaster for Sony Sports Network’s Ultimate Sports Quiz, the multi-hyphenate Bhogle is clear about the aim. “…It’s our own little way of creating a little sporting culture in our country,” he tells The Telegraph. Excerpts.

Tell us about the format of the Ultimate Sports Quiz. What can we expect? What has been the highlight so far?

We’ve got 27 teams from 22 cities in the first year of this quiz. There will be many more. We want to go deep as we go along because the idea is to get more and more people interested in sports through a competitive environment. They are not competing on the playing field but sports is for everybody. Sports isn’t just for people who knock a bat or ball or score a goal or jump far or run long distances or shoot an arrow. Sports is not only for them. What they do is fantastic but sports is for people who follow and this is a very nice method of getting them to compete with their knowledge of sport because they are all part of the sporting ecosystem. So, we do that. We give them the equivalent of an Olympic medal… prize. They get to go to a sports event of their choice anywhere in the world. If I was a kid I would have clambered on top of everybody so that I could be seen and say: ‘Me, me, me... I want to go there’. This year we did by invitation. As we go along, we’ll have eliminations too and then just the best teams to come and participate. We have three teams and the points system is fantastic. We test speed of knowledge, depth of knowledge and that’s why they are called Citius, Altius and Fortius because we check out different aspects of their knowledge. We test them a little bit and we do that in a fun environment.

What has your experience been like with the students?

Look, it’s not easy... let’s be honest... it’s not easy for 13-14-year-old students to be comfortable because this is a huge set with fancy lights and they are seeing a lot of people. It can get daunting, though we try making it as friendly as possible. So, one of the objectives of this quiz right from the beginning was to make the students as comfortable as possible because they will give their best when they are comfortable.

So, we took great care to see where they are staying, who they are accompanied by, how they come to the event and go. All these things have no bearing on their knowledge of sports but all these things contribute to them feeling good about performing. Then it’s up to them, but the idea is to create an environment where they are not stressed. And, if they are not stressed, they will be at their best.

Quizzing is a form of sport that isn’t too removed from batting and bowling. Deepika Kumari, one of our top archers, has got to shoot the final arrow and needs to score a nine to win a medal. In a quiz, they are waiting for the last question and if they get it right, they win and if not, they don’t. They learn to be competitive but they do so by working on their knowledge, mind and skills. Yeah, it’s a sports quiz, but, we’d like to believe that it’s our own little way of creating a little sporting culture in our country.

Tell us about your quizzing days from when you were a student…

I must admit, I did a little bit. We had a pretty decent quiz team in school. I was more in the debate, elocution team, but I was also a part of the cricket team... there were only that many things you could do. I did quiz for fun. I found the pressure too. I actually found it easier to play a cricket ball than to be in a quiz situation... that is when I realised that being on a quiz show is not easy. You’ll sit and watch a quiz show and say he didn’t even know this much! When we put ourselves into that situation and see if under pressure we can recall. That is what makes the quiz exciting. My memory of being in a quiz competition is that it was very difficult. The easiest thing in a quiz contest is to ask questions and that’s what I do! (Laughs)

Quizzing often is like a good thriller. Have you ever bitten off all your nails while quizzing?!

No, I never quizzed enough to bite my nails off. I was in yellow house and we had a senior’s intra-house quiz; there were guys whispering at the back ‘What man, he doesn’t know the answer!’ So, I knew the pressure. Of course there is pressure. I am not quite chewing my fingernails off because you can’t betray the fact that you don’t know. The moment you start chewing your fingernails, you are telling everyone that these people are tense. So, you may not be in a position to answer the next question. You don’t want to let that happen, but there have been many tense moments.

I’ll tell you the truth. I have been more tense asking the questions because with these young people, you start to feel for them and feel that they are also under pressure and deep down when you are asking the questions, you are like: ‘I hope he gets the answer’. When they get the answer, you start to feel happy for them too. The emotions that the children go through are also the emotions that I go through, but I am a little more helpless than they are because I am only asking them the questions and I cannot help them answer....

Among the cricketers you have met, who all have an appetite for quizzing?

Definitely Ravichandran Ashwin. I know for a fact that when we did a quiz the last time, he was keen to be on it... maybe Rahul Dravid. I’ll tell you what, we did a quiz show many years ago and who was best on it was S. Venkataraghavan from Chennai. We had a cricketer’s quiz and Venkataraghavan, Gavaskar... they were fantastic. Among the people who are curious, at the top of my mind, Robin Uthappa maybe. 

A famous name in the world of cricket is an engineer, worked in an advertising company and a sports management company too. Who are we talking about?

(Smiles) There’s not too many like that. You might as well draw a sketch and show it to me and see if I can recognise myself!

Watch Ultimate Sports Quiz every Saturday & Sunday at 1PM (IST) on SONY TEN 1 & SONY TEN 1 HD channels

Last updated on 06.06.22, 06:47 AM

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