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Bishen Jeswant On Leaving The Premiere Law Firm To Become Sub-Editor Of Cricinfo ESPN

Bishen Jeswant On Leaving The Premiere Law Firm To Become Sub-Editor Of Cricinfo ESPN

Crazy about something but stuck in something else? Bishen Jeswant joined the world’s largest cricket news website, ESPN after having worked as a lawyer. He has proved to the world that all one needs is the determination to start and follow ones passion. Find out about his journey as a statistical columnist.

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life” –  Confucius

HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS EPISODE

  • How law helped him shape his career as a statistician
  • How to follow your passion
  • A peek into his workday
  • How to take the initiative

QUOTES AND TAKEAWAYS

  • If you want something, ask for it.
  • Give it a shot and see how it goes.
  • There is something for everyone.

When did you first decide to move from Trilegal to Crincinfo, ESPN?

I probably made the decision sometime in law school. I always knew that I wanted to do something cricket related, even if I didn’t know what exactly that was. However, I didn’t want to take the plunge right after law school because I felt that I could be significantly hampering my chances of having a successful legal career by doing something non-legal fresh out of law school. I had two wonderful years with Trilegal after which I decided that if I had to try an alternative career, earlier the better. If you wait too long, other considerations such as family, a certain lifestyle, investments/financial liabilities etc. reduce the margin for failure, consequently making us risk averse.

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Did you the legal background give you an edge at work as a statistical columnist? 

I wouldn’t say that working with statistics was ever a dream. I always had a passion for cricket and was willing to take on any role that caught my fancy. ESPN conveyed to me that the only position they could offer me was in statistics, and that if I could demonstrate an aptitude for it. I have always been good with numbers and decided to take a on the challenge. I created a portfolio of articles that were based on cricket stats and analysis, and even churned out numbers about an SA-India series (in late 2013) as was required of me. I suppose the rest is history. Since I didn’t otherwise have a background in cricket statistics, I believe that, at some level, my lawyerly skills were useful in creating well drafted, cogent and crisp stats-based articles.

Can you take us through a day At work?

There are two kinds of work days – match days and non-match days. Match days usually constitute more than 250 days in a year. On a match-day, I would usually be doing three things – (i) providing viewers with live statistical data during a match that is interesting but, to the extent possible, not mainstream (for e.g. if Ishant Sharma concedes 100+ runs in both innings of a Test match without taking a wicket, viewers will probably want to know if any Indian bowler has ever been so terrible); (ii) writing a stats-based article at the end of each match. Timing is key here and the piece should ideally go up on ESPNcricinfo minutes after match, which means most of the writing must happen during the game itself; and (iii) some high profile series will have a pre, mid and post-match show with special guests such as Ian Chappell, Martin Crowe, Michael Holding etc. on the panel. The team I am part of creates statistical content for these experts to talk about.    

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How would you guide law students and lawyers who are interested to take up a profession in sports?

I have only two points of advise –

  • Start early. The more you wait, the lesser are the chances that you will actually take the plunge because you will get set in your ways, not be willing to take a pay cut or compromise on your lifestyle, have to pay the EMI on that flat you booked etc. You could even start while in law school, by writing a blog or securing writing gigs with small websites.
  • Take the initiative. Considering that we are qualified lawyers and not journalists, there is no way that a sports-based job will land in our lap unless we go out of our way to find it. So identify the kind of job you want to do, find organisations that provide such an opportunity, and go ahead and apply. Spend time and energy on researching your dream job so that that you can make an impressive application, demonstrating adequate aptitude, compelling enough for the employer to take you on board despite not having the requisite qualifications.

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 Have you been a cricket player as well? Tell us about your experiences.

Like most Indian kids, I also dream’t of playing at the highest level, the only issue being that I overestimated my cricketing talent. That said, I do have enough stories to tell my grandchildren from captaining my school for 4-5 years and playing club cricket in Chennai for about ten, even making the headlines on the lesser sports pages of The Hindu on more than one occasion. 

What were you involved in while in law school?

Right from my very first year in law school, I chose to be a part of every extra-curricular or sporting activity that I had the opportunity to, regardless of whether I thought I would be any good at it. Most of us don’t take advantage of the unique array of opportunities that law school presents, whether that be mooting, debating, client counselling, MUNs or research paper writing. There is something for everyone. I even used to undertake activities outside of law school such as teaching (at LST) or writing a regular column (for MyLaw). I felt that this was the time to explore every avenue open to me in the hope that I will find my calling with the investment of enough time.

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What are the things you had to do to remain closely associated with sports?

There is no fixed formula for this, but if you want a career in the sports industry, it is certainly necessary to do something in order to remain associated with the concerned sport(s), even if you are currently working as a lawyer. Here is why. From the point of view of an employer (such as ESPN), they will be extremely cautious about hiring a non-journalist who has none of the requisite qualifications. However, you do give yourself a fair chance if you can demonstrate that your passion is genuine and that you make up for the lack of any formal qualification with your enthusiasm, commitment and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty. In my case, ESPN was enthused by the fact that despite working as a full-time lawyer, I had managed to eke out the time undertake a part-time coaching role on weekends with an academy in Bangalore and also that I had written and cleared the umpire’s exam for the State Panel. Like I said, there is no fixed formula, but undertaking activities such as this certainly tells your future employer that you are serious about the career shift and are not looking to simply ‘give it a shot and see how it goes’.

Final thoughts

My final thought, and motto in life, is this – “If you want something, ask for it”. We often hesitate to take that first step simply because we are not sure if we are good enough, have the qualifications etc. Maybe we are not good enough or adequately qualified, but ask anyway and find out for sure. You will be surprised by how often you get what you want and also by much others value initiative and enterprise. While you are thinking, “am I good enough”, the person standing across you probably is thinking, “if he has the gumption to ask, he must be good enough”. Most of the things mentioned in this interview – whether the ESPN job, the coaching job, the LST job and even a regular column with Sportstar (by The Hindu) – have all been got by ‘asking’ despite not having the credentials.

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