We are in a constant state of tussle between what we “want” to be and what we are “expected” to be. However, there is no denying the fact that there is a sports person within each one of us.
Sridhar Bhamidi, our next pathbreaker, Sports Writer & Commentator at Flashscore, a flagship brand of Europe-based sports company Live Sport , writes previews on cricket and football, and offers live commentary services on cricket apart from social media management.
Sridhar talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about transitioning from the world of business and taking the plunge into the world of sports after doing his PGDBM from IIM Kozhikode, driven by his fascination for sports and writing !
For students, first convince yourself before you convince others, because making a career out of your dreams sounds too good to be true, and it most certainly is !
Sridar, what were your early years like?
I grew up in the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh, with my early education happening in Rajahmundry. I studied in SKVT school which was a hub of happening things during those days. Academics, extra curriculars, quizzes, sports – you name it, we had it! The buzzing activity was the right platform for me to develop my interests across the spectrum. I was very much into reading from my early childhood days, with sports articles at the core. I still remember collecting those centerspread Sport Star pictures.
Growing up as the youngest kid in a family of three children was another blessing in disguise for me. My father was a senior finance professional with BSNL and his genes of reading were probably passed on to me. Though my mom was a homemaker, she had a keen eye for making sure all our passions were taken care of. My sister pushed me to expand my breadth of knowledge while my brother was the rockstar sportsperson in our family. He played a lot of games and was the reason for my initial interest in cricket and football – both playing and following.
Looking back, I feel that those formative years where I spent a lot of time in the midst of books and following different sports, shaped my career.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I did my bachelors in computer science from Gayatri Vidya Parishad college of engineering, Visakhapatnam.
I worked for a couple of years as a software engineer post my graduation before going on to do my MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Kozhikode.
What were some of the events that influenced your transition from the world of business to sports writing?
You keep hearing of people accidentally ending up as doctors and actors, and now you can add a writer to that list.
I was a very enthusiastic business manager trying to carve a niche for myself in the world of technology when the bug of writing bit me. To be frank, I never hid myself from the fact that I wanted to be a writer at some point of my career. Even during my MBA at IIM K, I was dabbling with writing assignments. Blogs were the flavour of the day during that time and I used to manage a few, giving wings to my creative thoughts.
What really changed the course of my career path was when a dear friend nudged me towards professional sports writing while working with Cognizant. That was the first time when I realised that I could actually take up writing as a profession!
It all started with working as a weekend writer for a small Bangalore-based sports website. After a few months and a bit of experience, I tried reaching out to foreign websites to get a better platform and accelerate my growth.
How did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
It wasn’t easy for me to just metamorphose from a business manager to a writer. Although I had always been writing for a long spell of time, being a full-time professional writer was a challenge. I had to slowly get into the shoes of a writer and think like one all the time. Instead of just thinking about the business aspects of my article, I used to think of myself as a reader first before getting into writing an article. Would I read what I write? Will people enjoy and forward my article to their friends and family? And more importantly, have I addressed every question that my client wanted me to, with the article?
My job as a sports writer was pretty niche, but it had its roots in everything that I did in my earlier career. When I worked with Virtusa as a Software Engineer, I played a lot of cricket and TT. Thankfully for the sports fans, I could never get better than being average as a player! But what it really did was to spur my interest and keep the sports follower in me alive.
It was also the time that I really dabbled in a lot of reading – be it novels, short stories, websites and probably everything under the sun! My preparation for CAT also needed me to be a voracious reader and my sports reading hobby went hand in hand with playing a few sports.
Even after graduating from MBA and cutting my teeth into the professional world, my passion for sports stayed with me. In fact, it grew by leaps and bounds as I started following games and reading a lot more sports articles quite regularly.
Like I emphasized earlier, my stint at Cognizant was the first stepping stone towards making sports writing as a career. As I kept interacting with a number of clients as a freelance writer, I understood the intricacies and nuances of this writing world. With every passing month and every contract, I was able to get closer to my dream of being a full-time writer.
It wasn’t as easy as it sounds though, because getting new clients and contracts wasn’t straight forward. I had to reach out to a lot of customers all over the globe and push forward my case. I was pitted against the traditional journalists and regular writers from across the globe, so the challenges were enormous.
Thankfully, I was someone who wrote with a lot of passion and wrote on everything that I watched. It was almost as if I could give a different and unique perspective to my articles. Digging deep into the treasures of my experience of following the sports I love, and my habit of reading helped me stay ahead.
How did you get your first break?
The first turning point of my writing career has to be working with Heath Chick, who was my first professional client. He gave me a free hand and encouraged me to keep writing more and more. Working with Heath opened a new world for me, as I began juggling my business managerial duties with sports writing.
It was during those three years of my work with Cognizant that sports writing transformed slowly from being a hobby to being much more than that. I knew at that time that writing can become a big part of my life though I didn’t know at that point that I could make a career out of it!
The second and the most important turning point of my career has to be working with Stewart Moseley. It was a journey into the world of cricket commentary that started with little steps of understanding the readers’ mindset and bringing the best out of my writing. Thanks to my business acumen and prior knowledge at reading customers, I was able to make the best out of my writing. It was at this juncture that I realised writing can be a career for me.
Since sports writing was a niche area, I had very little help from traditional networking. I had to scout around, keep talking to different stakeholders from various websites. Crucially, I had to be patient in reaching out to a lot of clients and not be perturbed by rejections – it was almost like selling ice to Eskimos!
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
The first challenge was to suitably motivate myself that I am cut out for this competitive profession. It’s never easy stepping out of your comfort zone and I had to sell my skills to myself before changing career paths.
The second challenge was when I had to decide between being a freelancer to being a full-time writing professional. While the first had the benefit of pursuing this as a hobby while being a business manager, the second had the allure of pursuing something that I passionately loved. Turning into a full-time writing professional was doing something that I loved as a paid job! However, taking care of my family and their short & long-term aspirations was a challenge.
In this regard I feel blessed that I have great support from my wife who had to bear the odd hours of my working style more than me. It is said that being a writer is tough, but I say being a writer’s spouse is tougher! To have a spouse who loves your passion as much as you do – if not more – and supports you at every juncture is a blessing. In that regard, I am truly blessed
Looking back, it does look like it was a calculated risk to give up a cushy high-paying job to pursue something that I loved.
Where do you work now? Tell us about your role as Lead Commentator
I work with Flashscore which is a flagship brand of Europe-based sports company Live Sport. I write previews on cricket and football, offer live commentary services on cricket apart from social media management.
This is a job that needs you to passionately love presenting sports and your views in a manner that appeals to people. Unlike other jobs, there isn’t anything specific that is needed but it’s advantageous if you are strong with communication, good with understanding customer pulse, confident in writing and passionate in following sports. Last but not the least, you also need to know social media management, specifically Twitter.
What’s a typical day like?
A typical day starts with looking at the deadlines and understanding which articles are due. Depending on the articles, I then go about researching stats, reports and interesting snippets about teams. These will help in weaving a strong story around the article and making it interesting for the readers.
If the day involves covering a live cricket match, I discuss with my fellow commentators and start getting ready for the game. And then I sit in front of a live telecast – be it on TV or on online streaming to start presenting live action.
Something which I forgot to say earlier, you need to be very quick with your typing skills because live commentaries are real time. You have to be on your toes in presenting action crisply and without any time delay.
Sridhar, can you explain what a live commentary is?
When I say live commentary, it is about writing the ball-by-ball description of what’s happening in the match. Our match commentary service is a boon to all those cricket lovers who can’t watch live matches on television or stream, but can only follow text updates. Trust me, there’s a very large subset of cricket lovers who fall under this bracket. So much so that a large number of readers watch the match on television and also simultaneously keep checking the text updates!
So, what are the skills required for this role?
As you may have already understood, this requires the commentator to be very quick with his/her understanding of the game and also be superfast with typing it out. Flashscore encouraged me to have my own style of calling the action and over a period of time I have developed a unique way of commenting. As a text commentator, it’s important for me to realise that a large section of readers don’t have access to pictures when reading my comments. So, I take extra care to paint a picture with my words. Imagine those days when people had transistors to their ears, hearing intently to every word aired by All India Radio or BBC.
I also have to be quick to improve on the spot because every game is unique and unpredictable. When the field changes happen, as a commentator, I try to read what the captain is probably thinking. Needless to say, you have to be very good with your vocabulary, great in connecting with your readers and sharp in reading the game.
If you want a live example, you can always log on to Flash Cricket app and look for our live commentaries on match days. As I am a lead commentator, the chances of you finding me on any match is very high!
How does your work benefit society?
You may have to travel a lot to find someone who doesn’t love sports. Be it playing, following, reading or even writing – there’s a sports person in each one of us. My job gives wings to that fan in you. I also believe that sport is a medium of interaction that adds a lot of value to our character. Being a sports writer and commentator is not far off from being a sports person!
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
Every day that I work towards writing sports articles or presenting cricket commentaries remains memorable. Everytime the teams that I support march on towards victory, it gives me goosebumps covering those matches. To quote an example, covering India’s cricket tour to Australia where they won two memorable Test series was as memorable to me as a commentator as it was for the players involved.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Be true to yourself. Don’t do something that is financially lucrative or because it was forced upon you. Look inwards and find your passion. When you work in a role that you love, you don’t count your weekends. Or else, everyday will feel like a Monday at work!
I always wanted to write a novel, so that remains an unfulfilled ambition as yet!
Within this role, I would like to develop a sports ecosystem that increases the adoption of various sports in India and help inculcate a sporting culture in our country.