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Cricket is not a sport in India, it is a sentiment that embodies excellence. Almost every little boy in India harbors the fantasy of walking down the pavilion in a packed auditorium, someday. In a country of billions, only a handful get to live the dream. And then, there are a select few, whose passion lands them a spot on that hallowed field, albeit with a microphone in their fists, instead of a bat. We had the pleasure of a conversation with Jatin Sapru, a familiar face in cricket broadcasting today, and discussed with him the joys of his calling!
Jatin was born into a family of academic Kashmiri Pandits. His grandfather was a professor of repute and the family lived comfortably in a farm in Kashmir.
Until communal agitations stranded the family in a one-bedroom apartment in Delhi, landing them in a struggle for survival. Like thousands of others that had to flee the valley with just the clothes on their backs, they had to rebuild their lives from scratch.
Jatin credits his father for keeping them afloat and ensuring that he and his brother had a fulfilling childhood.
“My father worked hard to make ends meet. He had to cycle or hitch a ride to work. Despite everything, he saved enough to afford a good education for us”, Jatin remembers.
Why did you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career such as this?
At school, Jatin played javelin, shot put and eventually cricket. Sports always felt like home.
“One of my fondest memories is of walking miles, carrying heavy cricket kits, in the sweltering Delhi heat. We would save those meagre bucks, reserved for our commute, to buy a soda and a roll, post practice.”
But, like most boys in the country, he had to give it all up in favor of academics, after the tenth grade. Science, and eventually engineering had to happen, as is almost mandatory in India, despite Jatin’s lukewarm penchant for the stream. After a few months of jostling with the unexciting prospects of a life in engineering, Jatin took a stand, to the displeasure of his father.
“Dropping out of Engineering was a difficult decision. But I had always enjoyed literature and theatre, and English had always been a strong-point, so when I made it into a journalism course, I immediately felt like I belonged”, said Jatin.Steaming into an unconventional career, Broadcasting
What makes you successful?
Jatin humbly attributes his success to good fortune. But, he does mention a few milestones, that culminated into his career.
To begin with, the pervading influence of sports in his life is unmistakable.
“I remember how my cricket coach, Mr. Tushar Deshpande, once slapped me for swearing at an opponent. Sports teaches the importance of grace and respect, in victory or defeat.”
Jatin credits his father for encouraging him to follow and understand cricket, in the formative years. And his mother who instilled the importance of excelling at both English and Hindi.
How did you get to where you are?
Jatin started working small stints while at college and did odd jobs with an event manager. Post that, he chose to intern at a smaller media channel.
“I got the best career advice to join a small set-up and learn everything firsthand, instead of being a sidelined apprentice in a big firm.”
In the third year of his graduation, Jatin started working for Tangerine, where he scripted sports content for network providers, airline magazines and commentated for mobile ESPN. While it was great exposure, he was earning a meagre ₹6500, and the future looked bleak.
“I was looking for a way out, visiting education fairs. It was at that time that a hungover colleague literally forced me to audition for Dream Job. And then everything fell into place!”
Jatin reminisces that if Dream Job (ESPN Talent Hunt show) hadn’t happened, life might have been different. Instead, Jatin breezed through the competition and ended up winning the show. He’s been with ESPN (now Star Sports) ever since.
Your typical routine?
“I get paid to get up in the morning, watch a sport that I am passionate about, talk to living legends and broadcast my thoughts to the world”, we feel you Jatin!
The job entails 10 months a year on the road. Work starts with breakfast and stretches all the way to dinner. Behind the glamour of rubbing shoulders with the legends, is the hard work of content meetings, production details, preparing and analyzing. An interesting piece of trivia that Jatin shared was that broadcasters are always connected to the control room through their earpieces.
“(Producers) are constantly talking to the crew, all of it buzzes in our ears. Even as we interview, or broadcast. I have learnt to manage the distraction. I find that some of the background conversations provide me context for my segments.”
Guidance to students ?
To the aspirants who want to slip into his shoes, Jatin suggests the key is pure perseverance.
“Start from the tiniest opportunity for work experience. Take advantage of the diverse media. Work very hard! Understand the industry. Do it for the love of the job – not for getting TV appearances or becoming a celebrity”
The rest, as they say, is destiny!