In conversation with a great ambassador of cricket writing in India – Sarah Waris

Sarah Waris Twitter (Credits: swaris16)
Sarah Waris Twitter (Credits: swaris16)

In India, cricket is what most people love playing in their childhood. Playing cricket has led them to be involved in the game to such an extent that everyone just wants to be a part of the sport even if they are not playing it professionally. Today, we are interviewing one of such great cricket fans who realized the dream of having cricket as a full-time career and became a popular cricket writer, Sarah Waris.

Sarah is currently associated with Wisden as a full-time content writer and she owns a website of her own as well. However, life as a writer hasn’t been a cakewalk for her and she has faced a lot of challenges in what looks like a dream career. She faced criticism, harassment and everything but came out of it even stronger and became a successful writer.

We will go through Sarah’s journey and how life looks like when you follow your favourite sport with such detail. How she came out of the criticism she faced in the past and why she never writes about cricketer’s WAGs just for some views.

First of all, welcome to Cricmaze and thank you for being a part of this conversation Sarah. So what is your first cricket memory? How did this love affair start?

Thank you for inviting me for the same. It is a pleasure being a part of this. So I came across cricket quite late in my childhood, unlike most Indians. My family, like my father, was not into cricket much and I only came across cricket randomly while watching it randomly on television. My first cricket memory is when Sreesanth hit Andre Nel for a six in South Africa in 2006. He danced after that and I started finding the game quite interesting.

Did you ever give a thought to playing cricket professionally? Like half of this nation has dreamt it at least once.

I believe playing a sport professionally starts pretty early, as I was introduced to cricket in middle school and before that, I never thought of playing it professionally. In the beginning, it was always like watching it on television just for entertainment. I have played tennis for a while in my school but that is quite different from cricket.

How differently do you see cricket if we compare being only a fan and being a sports journalist?

Well, the way a fan watches cricket is just bat, ball and wicket, the bowler bowls and the batsman hits. They are only affected by the result. However, as a journalist, you watch cricket very deeply, how technical stuff works, how strategies work. Different conditions, different bowler, so there is a journalist angle towards it. When I was just a fan, I was not aware of those things and it never bothered me as well.

Do you have any personal favourites?

I am a big fan of Virat Kohli. I love the energy he brings to the field. Sometimes the aggression is a bit overboard but we don’t want a captain who is dull on the field. People might not know that I was a huge fan of MS Dhoni as well because I troll him a lot lately. However, I was a huge fan of Dhoni and Dravid earlier.

Do you think sports media is usually biased on a particular cricketer?

I don’t know about how it goes generally but I do bring out flaws of my favourite players. Like I do like Bumrah and I recently wrote about his flaws. This is what good journalism should be, otherwise what is the difference between a journalist and a fan.

How has been your journey as a sports journalist, from a freelancer to an entrepreneur and now a journalist at Wisden?

A lot of people ask me where I have done my journalism from and they get shocked when I tell them that I don’t have one. There is a notion in society that you need a journalism degree to pursue this career, however, I feel that you just need to be a good writer and a storyteller. What you see on the television is the same as what a billion other people see, but if you can bring out an interesting angle from it, that is what is important.

It started with sending just a sample piece to Sportskeeda and then I started working with them. Eventually, other websites started noticing me and I became a full-time freelancer. I am still a co-owner of CricXtasy and it is a great challenge, to be honest. There are a lot of aspects to look after like legal and financial aspects, also as I am working full time with Wisden, it is a great challenge. However, it is something that I love doing and that’s why I enjoy every bit of it.

How was your first day at Wisden and what were the challenges that you faced?

The biggest challenge was that I have always been a freelancer by choice and this is the first time I am working full-time. In the beginning, I made some mistakes and took time to understand a few things. However, the team was extremely supportive and they helped me. Also, the culture is quite different if we compare it to Indian companies as they do not make you work on holidays and give you breaks just to get back to your 100% and these things matter a lot.

Also, I like the type of articles they publish and the way they work on them. The entire team researches the articles and they verify every news that is to be published and don’t just publish anything which any other website has published just for the sake of getting views by publishing it as soon as possible. So there is a lot of learning.

How is life as a girl ‘cricket geek’ in India? Have you faced any challenges and criticism?

I had faced harassment from a senior journalist a few years ago, but I had insane backing of the fraternity when I did decide to finally speak up about it. Overall, the fraternity as such has been nice but obviously, there are the odd comments about how I should “rear children and breed buffaloes” as I’m a girl, and well, that’s the best that some guys can come up with if you decide to go against their views.

You haven’t written much about cricketers’ WAGs or the ‘masala stuff’ which is irrelevant to the game. What are your thoughts on the same?

I haven’t, because I have intentionally decided to stay away from that. It’s not the reason I wanted to enter the field. For me, it was all about writing ON the game. Others might indulge in it, and it’s honestly their decision. I was asked to write on the “Top moments of Anushka and Kohli” when they got married, but it’s just not something that is me, plus I learn nothing from these pieces.

Cricmaze thanks Sarah Waris for giving her valuable time to us and wishes her well in future endeavours.

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