Mayanti Langer started with football TV shows in her initial days Image: Agencies
Before Mayanti rose to fame, the only Langer I knew was Justin. If Justin Langer opened the innings for Australia with crackling square cuts, breathtaking cover drives and sublime centuries, Mayanti Langer usually sets the ball rolling for the Indian Premier League with the gift of the gab and an infinite love for the sport.
As the tournament enters its eleventh edition, Mayanti, who is married to cricketer Stuart Binny, is ready to take strike. While gearing up to anchor the IPL on Star Sports, she took time out for a quick chat with T2 Online to talk about her journey till date, online trolls and a love for football.
Did you watch the Nidahas Trophy final between India and Bangladesh? Dinesh Karthik was in beast mode…
DK has been in some unbelievable form right now. The match changed in a matter of some six to eight deliveries. It took some superhuman stuff. We were really excited to see that.
We all thought it was MS Dhoni wearing a Dinesh Karthik mask…
(Laughs…) Tamil Nadu boy Vijay Shankar was also there facing the heat. But it was nice to see Karthik work it out from the other end.
We saw Sunil Gavaskar do the Naagin dance in the commentary box. The video was all over Twitter…
Yeah, Sunny is quite funny that way. He has a pretty good sense of humour.
You always wanted to be a sports journalist?
Being a sports presenter was pretty much an accident. I simply went along with the opportunities and made a career out of it. I was studying English Honours in Hindu College, Delhi, and was enjoying myself doing normal college things, not knowing what to do in the future. For my masters, I was actually thinking of pursuing design because I have always had an interest in art and design.
Were the initial days very difficult?
I don’t think the initial years were difficult. Only when you get a few high-profile events that your responsibility increases. You get to learn a lot of things. I’ve been lucky to work with people who have supported me. I haven’t studied Mass Communication or anything like that. I have had normal college/university experience. I never knew how to be a sports presenter. So the best way I could be a sports presenter was talking to the camera like I’m talking to an audience. Like you and I are talking.
How is Mayanti Langer off camera?
I am pretty much the same. Off camera, I do normal things — doing the dishes, washing clothes and often going on road trips.
Do online trolls still bother you? Like, we remember, you had a thunderous response for those who once trolled Stuart Binny…
You have to take that in your stride. I responded in that way because the trolls were vicious. I didn’t like the fact that his parents were being threatened. I didn’t appreciate people saying “we know where your parents live” or “we know where Mayanti lives”. That’s a threat. I had asked them not to mock me with things such as suicide or divorce. Make fun of me, that’s fine. But don’t do things like that.
Even Virat Kohli shot back at trolls once…
Yeah, he also obviously had to say something about it after all that they (Anushka and Virat) went through. I think fans take it a bit too far. But all this doesn’t break my confidence. My younger cousins, who are girls, are stepping into this world and are posting pictures on social media. I want them to realise that social media is not the real world. I don’t want them to have issues with bullying and body-shaming.
So April 7 is almost here, Harbhajan Singh is going to Chennai Super Kings and Ashwin to Kings XI Punjab…
That I think is the beauty of the Indian Premier League. IPL perhaps is the best amalgamation of international superstars, Indian superstars, the next big things of Indian and domestic cricket. All of them are thrown into this highly competitive zone. The other thing I’ve noticed is the way people have responded to the return of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. It is great to know fans are thirsty for their franchises
But Bishan Singh Bedi doesn’t have great things to say about the Indian Premier League…
I think as a sports presenter, I’ve been very fortunate to work with most of the generations — World Cup winners of the past, World Cup 2011 winners and also the ones who will hopefully win it years from now. My father-in-law is a World Cup winner (Roger Binny) and he played in a very different era. We always joke at home where he’s says that things were so different in his time. Stuart plays a lot more cricket than his dad used to. Domestic cricket has evolved so much in India. Having said that, you have to respect what every generation has gone through. You know that kids getting IPL contracts is very different compared to what it was 30 or 40 years ago.
In your early days, you would host football shows. Do you still follow the game?
I still do love football. I haven’t followed it too much of late but I watch the Indian Super League. I just saw the ISL finals. Since I was in Bangalore, I didn’t go for it but watched it on television. Whenever I get a chance to watch football or hockey, I don’t miss it.
So is there any English Premier League or La Liga club you’re a fan of?
I think the only drawback of being a sports presenter is that you’re ingrained with neutrality. So the little part of you that tends to be biased is killed. So I don’t have any favourites anywhere. I just enjoy the game.
If there’s anything you would like to change about cricket, what would it be?
Probably just the cricketing schedule. It works very well for us broadcasters and fans that there’s so much cricketing action, but I think it’s hard on the players and their bodies.