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Mandira Bedi: It's cricket for me all the way

Last updated on: March 31, 2010 10:59 IST

'It's cricket for me all the way'

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Rajul Hegde in Mumbai

During the first two seasons of the Indian Premier League, Indian viewers grew accustomed to Mandira Bedi -- the so-called first lady of cricket -- as the charming host of the annual inter-India competition.

But, for the third season, things have changed. Aside from a few IPL specials for MAX in India, Mandira's now hosting an IPL show on a channel in the United Kingdom, ITV.

She tells Rajul Hegde about her extra innings. Excerpts:

Why the sudden shift to the UK to host the IPL show on ITV?

Actually, it was like a dream come true. One evening I got a call from the ITV office in London. They asked me whether I had commitments for IPL 3, and said that they were looking to have me on board to front their coverage, along with one of their ITV sports presenters.

I did have some commitments in the middle part of the tournament in India, so I gave them dates accordingly. They were keen to have me on board, so they agreed and it all worked out quite nicely.

What is the ITV show all about? How is the UK treating you?

It's wrap-around programming like I have done before. I am in a studio with a co-host, Matt Smith. We have ex-cricketers like Clive Lloyd, Vikram Solanki, Graham Thorpe, Graeme Hick, Alec Stewart and Mark Ramprakash, who come in every day.

It is pretty much like any wrap-around cricket programming. We provide analysis before, during and after the game. And every time there is a commercial break in India, we talk over live images. So we don't have respite for even a second through the day! It's fun to call it as you see it.

The United Kingdom and all the people have made me feel so comfortable. I am thoroughly enjoying my stint here and what makes the whole experience memorable is that the audience has accepted me as a host. I have been told that the channel's ratings have gone through the roof and all of us are very excited with the way the entire country has embraced us.


Image: Mandira Bedi

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'It just isn't the same without the Indian audience'

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The ITV ratings have shot up since you stepped in. Comments?

ITV ratings have been good for the tournament. Seven or eight times more than the ratings of the channel that covered it last year. It's nice to know people are tuned in. And it's also great to be a part of all the excitement.

Do you miss the Indian audience? How different are the audiences in the UK?  Do the Indians in Britain react differently?

In India, cricket is a religion. I don't think there is any place in this world that follows cricket the way we Indians do. So it just isn't the same without the Indian audience.

Having said that, the next place that follows cricket as passionately is the UK, the Mecca of cricket.

The audience in UK which I am interacting with is very knowledgeable about cricket. They would have loved it more if the English cricketers were playing in the IPL.

The Indians in Britain are Indians and for them cricket is just that -- a religion.


Image: Mandira Bedi

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'I am going to definitely give my costumes an Indian touch'

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How are your co-hosts? How is it host a show with British anchors?

Matt Smith and I have become very good friends and it comes through during our show. He is very knowledgeable, and it's good fun to host the show with him.

Matt and the ex-cricketers who join us are very objective when it comes to commenting on the IPL, unlike me. I seem to be rooting for every team! They really analyze each team's strengths and weaknesses.

Have you been given any instructions on your dress code in UK?

None. I am going to definitely give it an Indian touch. As the saying goes: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


Image: Mandira Bedi

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'I was told that I wasn't being replaced by another female anchor for IPL-3'

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How did you get to know that you wouldn't be hosting IPL-3 in India?

Rather than living in suspense, I asked the channel about their plans and whether they would need me. I was told that this time around, there had been a change of policy. I was told that I wasn't being replaced by another female anchor. With four male anchors, the show was going back to the basics, and the presentation would be about serious, hard-core cricket.

What do you think were the reasons for you not being in the IPL commentary team on Max? Do you think they opted for fresher faces?

They told me they wanted to try something new and go with an all-male team of presenters. That's what they are doing! But I am going to be a guest in the studio for few days when I am in India.

You will be doing some interviews for Sony Max to be a special guest for some of their pre-shows during the IPL. Can you talk about it?

No, not this season. This season, I'm a guest on the show, and then I have some interviews and stories to be shot for my ITV coverage.


Image: Mandira Bedi

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'No TV soaps for me'

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Do you plan to take on anchoring for other sports?

It's cricket for me all the way. I don't know as much about other sports as I do about cricket. But if something exciting comes around, I would love to.

Will you be doing any films, reality shows or soaps after the cricket season?

If something interesting comes my way, I would definitely take it up. But no for the TV soaps. I think I have done a bit on television, but I do like hosting shows on television, reality or otherwise. Let's see what comes my way. It's cricket for the moment for me!


Image: Mandira Bedi

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