She is considered the hottest thing on the field. However, Indian Premier League’s (IPL) popular presenter – Shibani Dandekar shrugs off the compliment, “I don’t know about the glamorous part, because I don’t think I'm very good at it.” On the contrary, the bold and sassy girl believes that it is more about breaking a certain image that people have about women in sports.
And by hosting ‘Extraaa Innings T20’ on Sony Max and Six, the chic anchor tries to achieve exactly that. Says she, “Our job is to give an insight into the lives of the players. Once the tournament begins, it becomes less of a job and more of a passion." She continues, "All of us enjoy watching the tournament unfold. It is about getting into it and I do not think any of us see it as work. We follow the tournament like fans follow the tournament. The only difference is that we get a different kind of access to it and we get to talk about it. It is not just something that we are hired to do. We are very lucky to be a part of it. We are right in the heart of all the buzz. So, ya, it’s a super job.”
She enjoys hosting the interactive show ‘Extraaa Innings T20’. “Of course, it has been four years now and it’s been incredible. It has been a long journey and one that has pretty much changed my life and my career. So I cannot really complain. It is a huge process in terms of growing as a person and as an artist. It has been a great experience. I am grateful that it gave me the right platform to explore other avenues as well as an anchor and not just sports. It opened door s for me in the fashion and lifestyle circuit.”
Shibani, who has also appeared in the popular dance show ‘Jhalak Dikhla Jaa’, wears many hats. She is a dancer, singer, model and a sports presenter as well. Although dancing is her first love, Shibani is a huge cricket fan and she enjoys interacting with renowned sports personalities. “I grew up in Australia and Australians are crazy about cricket. My dad is completely obsessed with the game. I've always grown with cricket in the background,” she says. “It wasn't difficult when I started doing ‘Extraaa Innings’ with Set Max, but it was more about learning the new format. To grasp my understanding about what is this all about and then being able to present it, which is even more challenging. So you learn not so much from match to match but from season to season every tournament. And you have to talk about it so you do learn about it. And I feel very lucky to have got this opportunity.”
Talking about learning new things about the game, ask her if she's noticed any quirky traits of IPL players while conducting their interviews and she grins, “Yes you do get an insight into their personalities. People like - Dwayne Bravo (Chennai Super Kings), Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy (Royal Challengers Bangalore) - they love to have song and dance on the field. They are quite lively that way. Faf du Plessis (Chennai Super Kings) is very much into fashion so he is the fashionista. Then you have people on the teams who are the pranksters. Basically, they all are having a good time. It is a fun tournament.”
And quiz her which is her favorite team in this fun tournament and she quickly says, “Obviously as a presenter I don’t have favorites but you do want the underdogs in the tournament to do well only to keep the tournament interesting. You want teams that are at the bottom of the table to win.” While she may not disclose her favorite team, she doesn’t shy away from naming some of her favorite players. “AB De Villiers (Royal Challengers Bangalore) is incredible to watch with the bat. In terms of fielding, I think Faf du Plessis (Chennai Super Kings) is the best. His level of athleticism is really something that is taking the game forward. Also, it is great to see young Indian players do really well like Ajinkya Rahane and Deepak Hooda (Rajasthan Royals). This tournament is such a great platform for young Indian players as well. It gives them the chance to be seen and showcase what they can do.”
Shibani claims she doesn't hang out with any players. She prefers to rather unwind in the gym or go for a swim. Says she, “In the last four years, I've never partied post a game. Our schedule is quite hectic. There is a lot of travel involved, so we're only in the city for about 2-3 days.”
Well, Shibani may be too busy right now, but she certainly enjoys letting her hair down and dancing away to glory. “I love to dance. But I won’t say it happens every weekend. My work is so crazy that it is actually a planned thing. There is always work happening. But when I do make a plan to go out, I make sure I am on the dance floor the whole night.”
However, the IPL’s pretty lady has not partied in Mumbai for a while, “I have not been anywhere here, for a while. I think the last time I went out here was four years ago. And the last time I went out was in London, 2-3 months ago. That was probably the last time I went to a party.”
Shibani who is a foodie and a health freak usually loves healthy food and one place where you will often spot her is at Fat Man’s Café Bandra, “I really enjoy Sunday brunch places. In terms of partying and chilling out, I think the Elbo Room at Bandra is nice. It is just like a local bar you can go and you know you will bump into friends, I really like that,” says Shibani.
Clearly, while work is her priority, the lively girl does know to have a good time too.
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