“The IPL's like driving at 80kph for two months and then suddenly going into a wall.” © BCCI

“The IPL's like driving at 80kph for two months and then suddenly going into a wall.” © BCCI

“Once I was wearing an off-shoulder dress on a hot day and Sunny G wanted to be funny. So, he took off his jacket and wore half of it. That was an absolutely hilarious segment.”

“It’s like driving at 80kph for two months and then suddenly going into a wall.”

The Indian Premier League, for everyone involved, is a mad two-month window of cricket – and also of lights, camera and action. Wisden India finds out from Gaurav Kapur and Archana Vijaya – two of the four hosts of the official IPL television broadcast – what the tournament is like behind the scenes and beyond the sixes, being around the stars, and how they retain a smile for the camera throughout.

Edited excerpts:

IPL and you
Archana: How I look unfortunately always takes precedence over everything else. For the last couple of years, though, people have moved beyond my looks. It is good to be looking almost perfect in a visual medium, but when people appreciate you for the real job you do, it is a satisfying experience. The challenges of live presentation without retakes are completely different. You just have one shot. This year, I have tried to be as bilingual as I can to reach a far greater audience.

Gaurav: Being a live broadcaster, this gig was not a hard one in terms of the medium. As for the cricket, the problem with the Indian audience is that they are comfortable to box you. They want you to do the same thing, but they will ask ‘what’s different?’ It’s a fascinating dichotomy. But I had faith in my understanding of the game and I knew I would gain credibility given time. The only thing I wanted to do was to make the shows more approachable.

Working with cricket stars
Archana: Sunny G (Sunil Gavaskar) is extremely encouraging and Rahul Dravid also came up to me and said to keep going.

Gaurav: It’s surreal actually to be sitting with some of my childhood favourites and talking about the sport I have been obsessed with. The teamwork comes with respect. My job is to get the best out of them because for the show to be good, everyone has to look and sound good. Sunil Gavaskar, my absolute favourite, called me the ‘king of repartee’. That felt pretty special. To have conversations with fascinating minds like Stephen Fleming and Gary Kirsten, for example, has been exciting. Also, anyone would be fortunate to call Rahul Dravid a friend.

Sharing the studio with Navjot Singh Sidhu
Gaurav: We get along famously now. I have spent more time with NSS this year than with my wife. It wasn’t easy to start with, as I was a flat track bully and he was the Perth pitch. But, slowly I adapted to him. With others you have to draw out content, with him you have to sculpt it.

In awe of
Archana: My first cricket assignment was back in 2007 when MSD (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) and all these boys were still young. So we have pretty much grown alongside each other. The only person I actually get weak in the knees for is Sachin Tendulkar. Even today, I am nervous talking to him. I think he knows it because they all joke about it.

Beating the clock
Archana: I have taken close to 40 flights this season. It’s a real challenge. I was never a big coffee drinker, but now I have taken to it because the caffeine kick keeps you energised. There is not much partying during the IPL, which makes my job a lot easier. But, having said that, the mental drill and rush overrides everything else as you are looking forward to presenting live. Every time after a match, I can’t sleep for at least an hour because of the adrenaline. It takes a while to unwind.

Also, getting to taste different cuisines in different cities of India is another aspect of my job that propels me. I enjoy going to Hyderabad for the biryani and to Chennai for the dosa.

Gaurav: There’s not been much travel for me because I am in the studio mostly. I get to come home most days, and that’s gold in a hectic tournament. But, even when we travel, we are pampered like princesses.

IPL lessons
Archana: My friendship with cricketers has nothing to do with my profession. I maintain neutrality.

Gaurav: Situations are very dynamic and the need is to adapt. You have to change with situations to extract the best out of you, and the situation. Adaptability is the only constant in the jungle of variables that is sports broadcasting.

Funniest experience
Archana: This season, one fan of the day contest winner started to sing Honey Singh songs to me and serenade me. That was quite funny. I thought they are supposed to be fans of the game.

Once I was wearing an off-shoulder dress on a hot day and Sunny G wanted to be funny. So, he took off his jacket and wore half of it. That was an absolutely hilarious segment because he caught me by surprise on camera. Had Danny Morrison done it, it would not have been half as funny.

Enjoy watching the most
Archana: Virat Kohli. I had a chat with him recently and saw such clarity of thought. You could tell that he is coming into his own. He is still young and has the fun side to him. As the interview ended, I told him ‘Cheeku ek cheeky smile de ke chale jaa’.

Gaurav: So many. (Brendon) McCullum, (Suresh) Raina, Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh), Virat (Kohli), (Chris) Gayle, AB (de Villiers), Sunil Narine, (Mitchell) Starc. I should stop or else it would be a list longer than this edition.

Handling post-tournament withdrawal symptoms
Archana: Mentally you can go on, but physically you are tired by the time the league ends. However, once you have two days of rest, you realise life is really slow now. ‘I was supposed to be in three cities in one day, why is it not happening to me!’ I am going off to Europe for a holiday; so I don’t think the withdrawal symptoms would last long.

Gaurav: It’s like driving at 80kph for two months and then suddenly going into a wall.

This article appeared in issue 8 of Wisden India Extra. Download your copy here