Cricket. It is a religion in India. For some, it is more than just that. Cricket is life for them. They can relate everything in life to cricket. Nikhil Popat is one of them. Hailing from Mumbai, Nikhil was an ardent fan of cricket. An IT Engineering graduate turned into one of the beautiful storytellers of the sport. He is currently the Associate Manager at ‘Sports Interactive’ in Mumbai
His analogy of looking at everything that is happening in life as a cricket match and the people involved as players is fascinating and every cricket fan could relate to it. In twitter, where the cricketing community is more often than not filled with hates and trolls, Nikhil is one of the very few who maintain the decorum and integrity despite being funny.
Above all, Nikhil is an endearing personality among the cricket writers going around. For aspiring writers like me, he is an inspiration to look up to. When we approached for an interview, Nikhil was more than happy to share his journey with Penbugs.
Tell us when it all began, the love for Cricket?
When I was around 8, the first game I saw was the Desert Storm. Sachin smacking Warne made me feel something really different and it really made me look into it ever since. I didn’t get to watch a lot of it due to fewer resources, but once the internet came around, things changed and the love for it has only grown with time.
When did you figure out that you are going to make a living out of watching and writing cricket?
Honestly, it has taken a long time. I got internships during my engineering days, which gave me an opening, but it was not until I was actually in the firm doing ball-by-ball commentary, I felt that I can do this for long and I can find other ways to stay relevant in the field.
How did you approach your writing career after doing engineering especially, it’s been quite a journey covering Cricket for you?
Yes! I started writing ever since I was in my college. I had Blogspot and Tumblr accounts, where I used to write songs about players too. Social Media helped me immensely, as I shared my content and it was well-liked. Social media was a different beast back then, THE GOOD ONE.
About your stint at Cricket next and working with Gaurav Karla?
It was easily the best working stint I have ever had since I started working in 2013. It is what I would call as a dream job. I got to learn so many new things, in broadcast, live shows, interviews, so much more. I wish it lasted longer than it did.
Twitter- what does it mean to you?
The twitter world everything. It has given me a platform to showcase what I could do, while also being an outlet for me as a person. It brought me closer to the game, closer to players and now when I have the players following me in twitter, I feel really blessed. Life would have been nothing, boring and dread to for, if not for Twitter.
Tell us about your philosophy of looking life as a cricket match, that pinned tweet of your Twitter TL.
I think it is something that has always come naturally to me since I have never really had a lot of friends. Cricket has been my only companion and the various facets, phases of the game have taught me a lot. It began when I would imagine subjects as players and plan accordingly, it made things less complex and easier to execute. Just the way it is, never been an effort, it has always come naturally.
A word about family and #Saachistories
It is what matters the most. I have lived my life listening to my heart all the time and tried to be as honest as I can. Never thought I could love someone as much as I love cricket, but it has happened, first with my wife and now with my daughter! I always feel at home when I am around the two, it’s like threading that cover drive through a packed offside field at the start of an ODI.
With so many fans and opinions around, how can one make a reasonably successful career out of writing cricket?
I go by the one line that Harsha Bhogle used in one of his interviews where he said, “As an outsider (someone who has not played the game at international level), we must always remember who we are not rather than who we are!” The way I see it, cricket is a great storyteller and there are various moments that matter in the game, impacts the game, but not all are talked about in the same breath. If I can find such moments, observations, I can help the game reach to newer people, while enhancing the viewing experience of those who are already in awe of the game.
What is your take on data and statistical analysis? With the kind of data that Cricviz and other platforms generate, do you think it will be the future?
Yes, it is. Numbers without context mean nothing. With the rise of T20, the essence of numbers has grown too, while the natural gut feel of the captain is equally important. But from the writing point of view, numbers are the ultimate proof as they can back/oppose/validate your observations in the best possible way. So yes, data analytics is a boon.
Favourite cricketers going around male and female, one per format pls.
So, here we go. Female: ODI – Ellyse Perry, Tests – Meg Lanning, T20I – Sarah Taylor. Male: ODI – MS Dhoni, Tests – Dale Steyn, T20Is – Jasprit Bumrah.