She’s a familiar voice to many Kabaddi fans. Radhika Reddy is among a handful of women who have broken the glass ceiling when it comes to commentating on men’s sport. Commentating on a game, regardless of the sport, is an art. And after having been the first woman to take to the microphone with the Pro Kabaddi League a few years ago, Radhika has now become the first broadcaster to commentate in Telugu for the Tokyo Olympics.
The Hyderabad woman says it has been an exhilarating experience to commentate for the Olympics. “Just like every player dreams of being part of the Olympics, it is every commentator’s dream to be behind the mike for the Games. It’s a great experience,” says Radhika. “Getting to know about the players and some of the biggest sporting heroes in the world has been a fantastic experience,” she adds. “Commentating and talking about some of the biggest sporting personalities, their records, etc., gave me a new high,” shares Radhika.
Although she has been broadcasting for the past few years, it was only for Kabaddi. But since Olympics has around 35 different sports, she had to prepare a lot. She was at the studio in Mumbai for three weeks before the start of the event, researching the various sports, players, their records, laws of the games, etc. “I had to work so hard. Since I was new to all the sports, I had to do considerable research and understand the game rules. I watched the videos of various sports and learnt about emerging players and their track records,” says Radhika, adding that since each sport has different laws, it was even more challenging.
“The best part of broadcasting is your ability to read the sport and give your perspective in a way that is significant to the followers of the sport,” she shares, adding that the joy of commentating is something she doesn’t want to give up on. “Commentating is all about expressing your joy for the sport; that’s when people connect to you,” she says, talking about challenges and pleasures of the job.
Since it is for the first time that Telugu audiences are listening to the Olympics commentary in their own language, Radhika also needed to ensure that her listeners knew the basic rules of each sport. She says she enjoyed understanding the game strategies of each sport, the techniques, how players scored, and analysing performances.
“Making game analysis and giving a perspective is a very sensitive issue, so we have to be balanced in the way we give our views,” she points out. Though she has been part of the Pro Kabaddi league broadcast team, Radhika says commentating for the Olympics is a whole new proposition. Sometimes, broadcasters are even asked to commentate impromptu for a game. “At times, we have to enter the commentary box right in the middle of a new game, and take it from where someone has left off. Now that’s incredibly hard, but that’s how it is,” she smiles.
To be able to talk and analyse different sports instantly is very challenging. We have to switch from one sport and move on to another and that’s so bloody challenging, there’s so little margin for error” she says. “In this year's Olympics, most of the matches were high-pressure games where players narrowly missed medals. So, apart from praising the winners, we had to commend players who had tough luck – and so touch hearts,” Radhika reveals, citing the example of the Indian women’s hockey team’s journey.
“It was so near yet so far for them; although they lost, as broadcasters, we kept appreciating the spirit they showed,” she says. Aditi Ashok, the Indian golfer who missed a medal by a whisker, was another example. With regional sports channels emerging, global sports are being localised, and are having more penetration. This has also resulted in a huge increase in viewership.
“That was the reason why scores of people were glued to the Olympics this time. And the fact that India won several medals is a sign of things to come,” says Radhika. The commentator, who is the mother of a 14-year-old girl, says, “I missed my daughter very much while I was broadcasting for the Olympics. I had to be in a bio bubble for around three weeks. The hotel I was staying in was literally converted into a studio,” and reveals that she had to undergo Covid-19 tests every three days.
“We were not even allowed to step out of the hotel and get some fresh air. But thankfully, my husband (Srinivas, former Team India Kabaddi coach) and daughter were in touch with me over the phone,” she says, describing them as ‘her stress busters.’
As our conversation winds up, Radhika points out that women broadcasters are on the rise in all the sports —something she finds very encouraging. “Commentary requires great oratory skills, level-headedness, and spontaneity,” she says, signing off.