Saturday, 13 April 2013



Indian Premier League 2013 is here! The sixth edition of the unprecedentedly popular Indian domestic T20 league is being watched and followed by millions. For the next 2 months, our TV screens, desktops, timelines etc. will be flooded with information about the IPL. In short, love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it. And if there is IPL, there will be Extraaa Innings on Sony Max and if there is Extraaa Innings on Sony Max, there will be pretty looking females in the studio or stadium, dressed to the nines, armed with microphones, asking random, often clueless, questions to cricketers with no apparent purpose or meaning.

 A lot has been said, written, posted, tweeted about the two female reporters on Extraaa Innings this IPL - Karishma Kotak a contestant on the sad-excuse-for-reality-television-show Bigg Boss 6 and former Miss India International Rochelle Maria Rao, winner-of-a-beauty-pageant-known-for-its- imprudence. It is important to note here that I have nothing against these ladies. In fact I am slightly envious of the fact that they get the opportunity to roam around stadiums, talking to cricketers. My problem is with the ideology behind the recruitment of these ladies and what they stand for – that female sport reporters do not/ are not supposed to understand sport, they are merely supposed to be beautiful showpieces to decorate the screen for the watching audience.

This concept is nothing new or not restricted to the male psyche, it appears to be a universally established fact that physically attractive ladies with little or no knowledge about the game can be and make acceptable sport presenters and that is what annoys me the most. It is not a mindset, it has become an unsaid canon, and I have personally experienced such incidents in my short stint in this field.  In my final year of journalism studies I was asked by one of my professors, a senior reporter with a leading news channel, which beat I was interested in. I said sport and the immediate response was ‘Oh you’ll do well in the sports beat, you biggest advantage is that you are a woman’.  Recently I did an interview with Rohit Sharma and was delighted when he spoke pleasantly, politely and in depth. I was later told that this was due to the fact that I’m a woman and that he tends to be curt with male reporters. I have worked with Ravi Shastri for some time and he was always more courteous and compliant with me than with my male colleague.

What these incidents highlight is that yes, being a lady does have its perks in the field of sports reporting, and honestly, I am quite flattered to be treated like one in whatever interactions I have had with cricketers so far. But there is a huge, wide, deep difference in being a lady sports reporter and being a beautiful-but-brainless lady sports reporter. If Sony Max and Extraaa Innings want glamorously dressed women in their show to attract eyeballs, they can easily get intelligent and good-looking female presenters, such as former cricketers like Isa Guha, Anjum Chopra, Melanie Jones and Lisa Sthalekar. If that is too much, then established sports reporters from news channels or even normal ladies who understand cricket (go on Twitter, you will find many!) would do. But no, they insist on having ‘models’ with no knowledge to present cricket. In the words of Neeraj Vyas, business head, Max, “The focus is on fun and entertainment and not on serious cricket. The girls are not chosen for their knowledge of cricket. Give them some time, they will get better. The girls have to change every year to get in younger and fresher faces” As a female who follows cricket, as a female sports writer, heck even as a female, this comment is absolutely insulting!! If the girls are “not chosen for their knowledge of cricket” then on what basis are they chosen? On how presentable they look against the green backdrop of a stadium or on how well they can hold a mic or how tight can their dress get without splitting?

Let’s have a look at some of the inanely absurd things Miss Kotak and Miss Rao have uttered {complied on the basis of the tweets I've received, I don’t watch much of Extraa Innings I admit} on camera while talking to cricketers (Again I repeat, I have nothing against the ladies in question, it’s not their fault that they do not know the difference between spinner and seamer)

  1. Daniel Vettori was asked how important it is to vary pace being a 'quick bowler' Something similar happened last year when Dale Steyn was asked how difficult it is to spin the ball in Indian conditions. [SERIOUSLY?!?! Max should at least teach them what is to ‘spin’ and ‘seam’ before giving them the mic!]
  2. Dwayne Smith was asked if he’s done a lot of shopping [In the middle of a game?? ]
  3. Karun Chandhok was asked about the noise levels at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. Here is his tweet - @karunchandhok Interviewer at #IPL match to me yesterday “Have you ever heard sound like this at a sporting event ?”….Clearly never been to a car race!
  4.  Andrew McDonald was asked who was taller, Gayle or him
  5. Alan Donald, sitting in the Pune Warriors India dug-out in their blue colors, was referred as the Sunrisers Hyderabad coach. [Poor Waqar Younis, always denied credit]
  6. I’ve lost the number of times KKR has been called KRK by them [a certain Deshdrohi will be pleased to be called upon by such pretty ladies]
These are just a few incidents in the first 10 days of the tournament. Imagine the list I’ll be able to compile by the end of May! (By when both the ladies in question would have got the desired offers from Bollywood and advertisers)

My point here is simple – I am a lady who not only follows cricket, but aims to work in the field of sports journalism. And instances such as these IPL hosts are detrimental to my prospects. Mr. Vyas clearly mentioned that they need glam models with no knowledge of cricket for the entertainment factor. But in the process he is negatively affecting the image of women sports presenters. In this era of gender equality, where women are probably doing better than men in many sectors, IPL is, as my friend at Alternative Cricket puts it, setting feminism back to a prehistoric age. They could have used Indian female cricketers and subtly promoted them and their game. There is no dearth of cricket playing or following women in India and many of them are pretty as well. If the aim is to have beautiful, eye-pleasing women, then it can be achieved without stereotyping sports loving women and insulting the intelligence of the wider cricket-watching population.

P.S. This article is inspired by Anjali Doshi @anjaliadoshi on Wisden India, but not a replication. Thanks to Anjali for a great idea!

P.P.S I would appreciate your feedback - thoughts, comments, suggestions, even accusations, on this piece in order to get a broader, interactive idea on the topic. Do share your views in the comments section. Thanks!