Exclusive: In conversation with IPL and Sports Anchor Sanjana Ganesan
Sanjana Ganesan is a known figure in the TV circuit, having covered the IPL and various international tournaments in abundance over the past few years.
In an era where there is a lack of non-cricketer sports presenters, she stands out as one of the few people to actually witness, cover and speak on these matches from close quarters.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, she provides some minute details of her profession, her collaboration with KKR and various things that she has learnt from her job in the past few years.
Q: Starting off with your career at Star Sports, have you always have had a knack for cricket or any other sport?
Sanjana: Growing up, I watched sports as a fan. I never played any sport or be athletic as such. However, I moved to Mumbai after my education to see what was on offer and Star Sports was a happy accident. So I actually started picking up sports, understanding it and actually invest in it only once I joined over here.
Q: How do you think have you evolved as a presenter, particularly while covering the IPL where there are consecutive matches to report over a course of almost two months?
Sanjana: When I started out, I have grown leaps and bounds I feel compared to then. I knew very little about presenting and my knowledge of cricket was quite fan-oriented. I have learnt most of the things on the job and I feel there is a lot to be learnt especially in terms of presentation.
The IPL is a lot of fun. When you think about it once it’s over, it is a bit blurred as such. The travel, the presenting, being at the matches happen so quickly that it is so much fun. It’s an experience of a lifetime. I don’t think there is one way of describing it or putting it across. It doesn’t feel like work, really.
Q: Can you talk us through the initial days of your work? What were the hardships that you had to go through to learn the fine lines of sports journalism?
Sanjana: Initially, I knew how to face the camera. However, I had to learn other things from scratch; mostly, in terms of understanding sports journalism as a profession. I had to learn about what I needed to say on the camera, how concise it needed to be and what information needed to be pushed forward.
But, this is something that everyone at Star were so wonderful and they helped me out understanding what was to be done and just helping me grasp what the job was all about. As I said, I learnt everything on the job so it was more of a process rather than a hardship.
Q: You have been associated with the Knight Riders for over three years now. How has the experience been with observing the daily activities of how the franchise and the players work in general?
Sanjana: Oh, it was wonderful. Before I was a part of the Kolkata Knight Riders’ team, I didn’t really know how an IPL franchise team works.
But, everything was so well organized and so nicely taken care of. The management was great and everyone was quite close. I think after three years, it has become more like a family.
Everybody know each other, they know what’s happening with the other person’s day and schedule. Anyhow having so much fun along the IPL, it has become a celebration of cricket. Being associated with a team, especially the Knight Riders are such a close-knit and hence it is always a great experience going back to them. It was more of understanding of how a team and every part of it work.
Q: Having been in the industry for quite a few years now, can you provide some insights on what goes in the preparation of specific shows?
Sanjana: See, it really depends on what kind of show are we talking about, if we are doing a show for a tournament depending upon whether it is live or not live. Sometimes it happens really quickly, like if you are doing a match review and have to do a wrap up of sorts.
There are many changes on the run, as when the team sheet comes out, so it is very dynamic for a tournament because everything is constantly changing.
However, if we are doing something like a throwback show or like where we are talking about the ‘Top 10 Moments’, then it is a little bit relaxes in terms of gathering the content and putting it together. So, the chunk of the work is done by the producers and they are really good at what they do.
Q: How important is it to remain neutral during the coverage of games? Have you ever crossed the line and let your emotions overshadow the overall magnitude of the situation?
Sanjana: Absolutely, neutrality is of 100% top priority. Because what you are doing is you are presenting the situation of any given match to a viewer. They don’t really know which side of you is supporting who so you can’t really pick a side or favour them in conversations.
Even though I have my favourite teams and favourite moments, it is all off-camera. Before you step on the frame, you have to tell yourself ‘Sanjana, you are talking about the match and the match only’ and hence you have to speak on the overview of it or the great moments that happened during the game. I try to keep as neutral as I can.
However, with the fans and the people whom I interview, I think it’s okay to talk about the fact that their team has done well as you get a little more into the sentiment of things amongst the people. However, neutrality is a key while presenting a match report or analyzing any particular game.
Q: Being a non-cricketer in this industry, how difficult has it been to carve out a name for yourself amidst all the legends of the game?
Sanjana: Firstly, I didn’t really understand the gravity of what I was doing. This entire industry is way bigger than I ever imagined it to be. So, it was never like I aimed that in these numbers of years I am going to be here.
It happened like one step after next, so I never felt that I was reaching towards a particular goal in a surge. But I’m really glad of where I have reached and where I am heading currently. Working with all these big names and legends of the sport, they are very sweet. So I have never been made to feel like an outsider in the profession.
They have always been really nice and have helped me understand about certain aspects of the sport and presentation whenever I required help. So, this industry has welcomed me with open arms and I have no complaints.
Q: What are the key things that you have learnt over the years in this profession?
Sanjana: I think the first thing is just being a hard worker. Nothing can compensate the amount of work you put into your job. It is a demanding industry. There is a lot of travel involved, it gets pressurizing too.
So you have to be at the top of your game and understand there is so substitute for hard work over here. You need to have fun. At the end of the day, it is a sport, and we all know that a sport does unite many people together.
Enjoying your work is the best way to get better at it, as it’s not a career everybody takes up and is good at. There’s a need to be realistic with your goals. It is important to understand that it is a process and you cannot become an overnight sensation at it.
Moreover, I would not advise anyone to become an overnight sensation either as the harder you work, the more time you spend is the more you would improve eventually. Just remember that after all the efforts, if you are meant to be somewhere, you will.
Q: How was your experience giving that TedX speech in Vashi six months ago?
Sanjana: Yeah so the TedX team had gotten in touch with me and said that they would like me to come down and speak to the audience that they had organized. Initially, I was a little apprehensive as I have no authority over the matter of sports presentation and I am relatively new doing this.
But they were like it’s not about talking about just that. They wanted me to talk about my journey, which I think was quite good as I sort of get many messages on people asking for guidance regarding entering this profession. So though I couldn’t provide advice to everyone regarding their own pathway as I didn’t know their journey, I could definitely explain my route and if possible they could pick up certain useful things from it!
It was a lot of fun as I spoke about how I moved from Engineering to the Miss India Pageant to now Star Sports. How one thing led to another and it ended up quite good eventually. It was a great experience, undoubtedly!
Q: Which have been the most interesting interview that you have conducted and any reason regarding it?
Sanjana: In terms of getting to know someone, a person who actually surprised me was MS Dhoni. Because, when you see him on the field, and his image of that as a ‘Captain Cool’, he is very reserved. However, outside of cricket, he is really witty and very forthcoming. He was actually very charismatic and I really enjoy that interview.
Then of course, the ones I do with the Knight Riders, they are such a fun bunch to hang out with the likes of Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik in the mix. Those interviews used to come out quite well. Even the one with Chris Lynn, he had a wonderful sense of humour so it was certainly interesting to interview someone like that.
Q: As someone who did not play the game on a professional level, do you tend to draw a line where the analysis of the game is concerned?
Sanjana: Absolutely. See, I try to stay far away when the analysis, as my job as a sports presenter is to mediate. We have experts in the game who have played the game before; they, of course, know what they are talking about. I am there to ask the person questions because as a fan, as a supporter one has a lot of questions that she/he would like to ask but they aren’t present on the show, right?
I am the person who conveys these questions that a normal person sitting in his living room would think of. These experts answer what happened, what should have happened at a particular point of the game and thus.
Q: Mayanti Langer recently said that she never sees herself as a female presenter, because the work responsibilities are the same for both men and women. What are the views on the same?
Sanjana: I agree completely with Mayanti here. Especially at Star Sports, they do not treat us as a female presenter or a male presenter, as everybody is contributing to the job that needs to be done.
When there is a task at hand, they do not care whether a Jatin is doing it, a Mayanti is doing or a Arjun it doing as long as it is getting done really well. I think there is more emphasis on the quality of the work rather than who is doing it or whether you are a female or a male.
It is more about what personality you have and what kind of presenting you do eventually because I have never felt that this fact is an issue.