“I knew I was mad about cricket and had a decent flair for writing”. This statement pretty much sums up the career of our next Career Pathbreaker. Read his story to find out how his madness for cricket took him from an engineering college to the cricket grounds! Shashank, you have written many stories. Iam sure many will find your story most interesting of them all !!!
Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal chats with Shashank Kishore, Senior Sub-Editor at Cricinfo regarding his career.
Shashank, Tell us about your background
I grew up in Bengaluru largely, and did my schooling and college in the city. After Class XII, as was the case with many students back then, I really wasn’t aware of too many career options (maybe I should’ve been better informed!), so I only had one option: engineering, since I wasn’t keen on studying medicine. I studied possibly one of the toughest courses – Electronics and Communication – at the New Horizon College of Engineering, because it was supposedly the “best branch to land up decent campus placements.” In hindsight, it wasn’t the best way to approach things, but at the time, it felt right. Then, I think engineering made me realise I wasn’t the best fit there, which made me think of an alternate option. That is when cricket happened. So you can call it luck by chance, So far, things have been good (touchwood).
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and exciting career?
At the end of my third year in college, I questioned myself. My scores were below average. So I asked myself two questions: 1) What are my best skillsets? 2) What am I most passionate about? It was an honest appraisal during a long bike ride (Bengaluru traffic allowed me plenty of alone time!)
I knew I was mad about cricket and had a decent flair for writing. So I thought, maybe if I start blogging and find an avenue to showcase my work, there could be a chance of creating a body of work that I could attach to prospective employers.
During the month-long summer vacation after my third year in 2009, I was introduced to Sorabh Sodhani, an alumni of IIT-Bombay, who was part of a content start-up called MeraSport. I met Sorabh on an Orkut cricket group that i was part of. Essentially, they built sports content for mobile consumption, since 3G technology was just entering the Indian market. I worked for them as an intern, spending three hours a day working on sports content, primarily cricket, for a stipend of INR 7500 per month. It was big money for a college student at the time. Just not having to ask my parents for pocket money felt quite amazing!
The job was to build a mobile site, and update cricket scores through SMS/USSD technology and drive users to the website. They were also in the business of sports tourism. I worked for them for six months, and mostly during the weekends when my final year resumed, before I made the next move.
What did you do after graduation?
Sorabh introduced me to Pankaj Chapparwal, CEO of Cricbuzz.com, which was six-years old at the time in 2010. They were looking for passionate cricket guys for their ball-by-ball and news verticals. I had a chat with Pankaj and he was happy to offer me a job straightaway, even without an interview, because he was convinced after a casual conversation. I’m grateful for the opportunity as I took baby steps in the cricket industry. I was with Cricbuzz.com for exactly a year, before moving to ESPNSTAR.com, which was based in Noida and Gurgaon.
The decision to leave Cricbuzz was difficult, but here’s a message to young students: make every effort to leave a company on an amicable note. Cricbuzz wanted to retain me, but I wanted to switch, because the opportunity to cover a Cricket World Cup (in 2011), was too big to miss for a 22-year old. I eventually moved, and covered the Bengaluru and Chennai leg of a memorable tournament. It was through this stint with the digital wing of the broadcasting giant that I learnt the ropes of writing and reporting. I had an encouraging boss in Soumitra Bose, who never said no to my story ideas and backed me to execute my ideas.
After 1.5 years with ESPNSTAR, I wanted to return home to Bengaluru, largely because I didn’t quite enjoy my life outside work. It was around then WISDEN INDIA were starting up in the city, and had put together a wonderful team of experienced journalists. I joined them in May 2012 and had a memorable stint of 3.5 years, where I took keen interest in Indian domestic and women’s cricket. I was fortunate to have covered three global tournaments (Women’s World T20 in 2012 and 2014 in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh respectively and the 2013 Women’s World Cup). This stint made me a more refined writer and reporter and with the learnings from those experiences, I’ve been able to build on further at my current work place – ESPNCRICINFO, with whom I’ve now completed four years.
Can you recollect any memorable work you did as a journalist hat you are very proud of?
The ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2018 in New Zealand has been my most memorable experience till date. It allowed me an opportunity to write and explore the personalities of the next generation of players, many of whom we will hear a lot about in the years to come.
It’s easy to analyse a Virat Kohli or a Cheteshwar Pujara these days, but junior cricket is a little more than just analysis. It’s about human-interest stories, about getting to understand their mindsets. The month-long stint gave me the independence to think and execute my own ideas in a pressure-free environment. Of course, bumping into Rahul Dravid at cafes, restaurants and at training in the stadiums, and later interviewing him the morning after India lifted the cup was an awesome experience.
I was part of a five-member panel chosen by the International Cricket Council to adjudicate the Player of the Tournament and Team of the Tournament. The other co-panelists were Ian Bishop, Tom Moody, Anjum Chopra – all respected broadcasters and former international players – and Jeff Crowe, an experienced match referee.
Ideating with them and discussing the best players before narrowing in on a XI was a memorable experience. At no stage did they make me feel I wasn’t a cricketer. My opinions had the same weightage as everyone else. That was a very warm and illuminating experience. I’m thankful to Aarti Dabas and C Rajshekhar Rao from the ICC, and of course my seniors at ESPN – Sambit Bal, Jayaditya Gupta, Osman Samiuddin and George Binoy – for providing me that opportunity.
What are your future plans?
At some stage, I’d love to work with an IPL franchise or the game’s governing body. For the moment, I’m happy to be a story teller.
Your advice to students?
I love this quote: ‘The extra mile is never crowded.’
When you join work, don’t think of it as a 9-5 job. At times, you have to stretch yourself over and beyond your work hours. At the time, it may seem pointless, but such wholehearted efforts do get noticed at some point. This has always played a key role in me getting whatever opportunities I’ve had so far.
I’ve had numerous instances where I’ve cancelled plans on off days to pursue stories, out of my own will. And all of these have contributed towards the rewards I’ve had at some point. So, don’t shy away from expressing yourself and going out of your way to work on something you chase. It is bound to be recognised at some point. We aren’t paid for the hours we put in, it’s what we do during that time that counts.