In an exclusive Interview, Anant talks about his school days, what led to a career in Sports Journalism and how a lunch in London led to a turning point in his career.
Tell us something about your childhood background? Were you a sports fan since then?
I went to boarding school at the age of 11 because my parents realized that there should be an avenue to balance both academics and sports and The Doon School in Dehradun was a perfect fit for the same. I was the junior head boy in my school in Delhi.
I used to watch a lot of sports but I started playing a lot of sports in Dehradun like Field Hockey, Tennis, and Athletics. I aspired to be a Tennis player but realized that I had to focus on studies and couldn’t give the time to the sport as it requires to be a professional player.
Can you further elaborate your journey in Doon School?
I was the head boy at the Doon School because I balanced academics, Sports as well as extracurricular activities to the best of my abilities. Also I am fortunately one of the 2 boys in the 75 year history of the Doon School to get all the 3 blazers, the Scholar's Blazer(For being good in academics and extracurricular activities), the Games Blazer for being good in sport and the Dukes blazer(the International award for young people).
What inspiration did you take from your grandfathers who came from literature and poetry backgrounds?
My paternal grandfather, Dushyant Kumar was a poet and his poetries were pro-people and have context even today and I have read his works. My maternal grandfather, Kamleshwar was an author and I have spent my childhood with him. He was a Padma Bhushan awardee and wrote films like Aandhi which were directed by Gulzar along with being a television anchor. I learnt a variety of things from both grandfathers.
What led to a course in Sports Journalism?
It was actually accidental. I was studying in Hindu College and thought that Financial Journalism is something I am cut out for as I was good in Economics. But soon realized that it wasn’t meant for me. So I went to Jamia Millia Institute for doing Masters in mass communication and understood what happens behind the scenes and did a lot of film making along with simulations of live studio-based television. At the end of the course, there was a problem of plenty because I had an exposure to a lot of things but experience in a few.
At Jamia, I had to do my masters theses where my topic was 'The rise of Cricket at the cost of Hockey and Football.' The question of the project was something I had been thinking of since childhood and while answering that question I answered my life question as well because I realized that I have to take sports more seriously than only being a viewer.
How was your time in England, especially during the journalism course?
My father believes in the power of education and degrees. He said that I should do a course in sports journalism. He was a banker and I managed to get a loan and decided to go to England. My parents always had a will to give me the best quality of education and facilities although it was difficult for them as we were a middle-class family in Bhopal.
My time in England led to a sad turn of events, but I managed to get a corporate job in London and paid off the loan as well.
What led to a job in Star Sports?
I was having lunch with a friend of mine at Indian YMCA who knew the people from ESPN-Star and they wanted someone for Hindi Commentary.
The next day, I went for an audition and cleared the stages over the next couple of weeks to bag a commentary stint for the English Premier League. We had a lot of workshops with IMG and some senior commentators like Novy Kapadia and Bhaichung Bhutia were there in England to train us and it was a beautiful experience. I was the part of the inaugural game of the 2013-14 season between Manchester United and Swansea and the Chelsea vs Hull City where Jose Mourinho was returning to the club.
How is it to conduct post-match and pre-match Interviews with legends of the game?
I am very fortunate to be with Star and meet legends of the game. I spent my previous birthday with Didier Drogba and it was a beautiful feeling. I have interviewed Nadia Comaneci, Vishwanathan Anand among others. We can learn a lot of things from them but their work ethic is what stands out.
How is it to be a part of comprehensive coverage of Indian Football and the face of Indian Super League?
In May 2014, I got a call from BBC for the final round of the interview and it was a dream to work with them. But Star also got in touch with me as they were launching the ISL and I thought what better than to be a part of revolution involving Indian Football.
I started with Hindi Commentary for the ISL and then the following season I did non-live English shows. From the 3rd season onwards I started presenting for the live feed.
Was there any moment where you had done a mistake on camera?
In 2017, I was presenting the IPL for Hotstar. I am multi-sport Commentator and having presented the ISL for a lot of time, I said Delhi Dynamos instead of Delhi Daredevils. So it happens sometimes. Brett Lee, who was the expert on the show, pointed out that you must be talking about the football team and he chuckled as VVS who was also the expert had a laugh.
Other than the Indian Super League, what’s your favorite memory of hosting an event?
I have been a part of some crucial moments of Indian Football but I have some memories as a Hindi commentator and an English Commentator. As a Hindi Commentator, I remember presenting the Rio Olympics opening ceremony for 3 and half hours and in the build-up, there had been a lot of research about the athletes and the history in the Olympics for 48-72 hours.
As an English Commentator, it has to be when Sunil Chettri scored against the Kyrgyz Republic and the people liked it because the emotions came from inside. And also the 2019 IPL Auction which I did because that was when I did the post shows in 2 different languages in the space of 90 minutes. While for English I did it for the live feed, in Hindi I did it as a non-live show because Jatin was down with fever and had to go home and I was the standby and ended up summarising the entire auction.
Holiday Destination- Austria
Favorite Sporting Venue- Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai Football Arena
Favorite co-host- My wife, Sagarika Chettri
Football Club- Chelsea
Sporting Idol- Roger Federer