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Annesha Ghosh: Finding the goalposts

Indian sports journalist Annesha Ghosh was recently in Australia to cover the group stages of the FIFA Women’s World Cup

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For 30-year-old sports journalist Annesha Ghosh, life is best lived by Irish novelist Samuel Beckett’s famous quote: Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. It’s a saying that rings particularly true for Ghosh, given her journey from modest beginnings in India’s West Bengal to becoming one of the most sought-after young journalists in the world.

Ghosh speaks fondly of her roots in Behala, one of Kolkata’s oldest neighbourhoods. It’s a bustling, innately chaotic place that Ghosh still calls home. And of course, there was no escaping cricket in Behala; many of Ghosh’s formative memories involve playing cricket in her ancestral home with her two older brothers, and despite its long and storied history, Behala is perhaps most famous as the hometown of former Indian national captain Sourav Ganguly.

Annesha Ghosh, Source: Supplied

Equally inevitable, as a young girl in a traditional middle-class Bengali family, was a love for the arts – first, following in her mother Chhabi’s footsteps through classical dance and singing, but eventually, a voracious passion for the written word.

By her late teens, Ghosh was poring over cricket and Olympics literature. “There was some sort of enchantment that the English word has always had for me. When I used to read sports literature, it felt like a perfect marriage between the two worlds”, says Ghosh, of the allure of sports journalism over more traditional pursuits.

But becoming a successful sports journalist was by no means a fait accompli.

Many of the challenges were external. There was the sudden brush with Bell’s palsy-induced paralysis ahead of her critical ICSE exams at 16, from which Ghosh learned to “accept, look at the positives and move on”. Or Ghosh’s first beat as a journalist, in crime at the Kolkata Police Headquarters – a far cry from the international sports events which she coveted. Or the inherent challenges which come with being a woman in India.

Annesha Ghosh
Annesha Ghosh, Source: Supplied

But in many ways, Ghosh was also fighting a battle within herself, ignited by a pivotal moment: her first time watching women’s cricket live, at the 2016 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final. On that famous night in Eden Gardens, Ghosh had an epiphany: she wanted to play the highest level of competitive cricket that she could, scratching an itch that she suddenly realised had been building since her childhood.

At 22, having never played organised cricket, Ghosh knew she was incredibly late to the party. Undeterred, Ghosh began training at the Cricket Association of Bengal, under the tutelage of renowned coaches Subhra Bhaduri and the late Dipen Rudra, each of whom Ghosh credits with both her development and women’s cricket generally.

“I put in a lot of effort, I was the fittest I’ve ever been”, says Ghosh. “It was the most formative period of my life, it taught me so many things. If you put your heart into something, you’ll get what you want. You have to make sacrifices – I was working towards something, I couldn’t see the goalposts, I was just dribbling the ball”.

When Ghosh speaks of sacrifice, it is not lip service; it was at this time that Ghosh won a nation-wide ESPNCricinfo commentary contest, landing her a job offer from Editor-in-Chief, Sambit Bal. But Ghosh couldn’t bring herself to accept – yet.

A pre-World Cup Football Writers Festival at which Annesha moderated a panel, Source: Supplied

“Any sane person with ambitions of venturing into sports journalism would take the job straight away”, laughs Ghosh. But, with her dream of competitive cricket still unfulfilled, Ghosh asked Bal for time, which he granted – a gesture for which she says she will be “forever grateful”.

Ghosh would go on to succeed at district level cricket, and while Ghosh’s journey ended there, many of her former teammates and opponents now play for the Indian women’s team, or in the WPL.

No longer plagued by unfinished business, Ghosh took up the job with ESPNCricinfo and her career has since thrived. In her short career, Ghosh has written, commentated and produced content for an impressive array of global publications, including for the Guardian, BBC and ABC.

Most recently, Ghosh covered the group stages of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia, the highlight being a special moment watching the Matildas’ opening game against Ireland alongside former Australian cricket vice-captain, Rachael Haynes. “It was a beautiful, emphatic statement for women’s sport: two women, largely known for cricket, at Stadium Australia witnessing that historic game live”, reminisces Ghosh.

Annesha Ghosh with Rachael Haynes, Source: Supplied

The Indian women’s team failed to qualify for the tournament, amidst the All-India Football Federation’s ongoing administrative and governance challenges including an unprecedented suspension from FIFA last year. But Ghosh remains optimistic. “Our women players are strong enough”, she states. “Once they get better facilities, and provided the administration have their hearts in the right place, it’ll lead to better governance and better results on the world stage. But the bare minimum needs to be done first”.

Despite her many sporting heroes, Annesha Ghosh doesn’t need to look far when asked of her inspiration. “I’ve seen my mother sacrifice a lot to raise me and my brother to create opportunities for us at the expense of some of her own dreams. I’m so grateful to her.”

There’s little doubt that Ghosh, too, will be inspiring generations of young journalists in the years ahead.

Fast Five:

  1. Favourite events you’ve covered as a journalist?
    • 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games
    • 2020 T20 Women’s World Cup
  1. Three biggest sporting heroes?
    • Sachin Tendulkar
    • Serena Williams
    • Abhinav Bindra
  1. Favourite country in which to cover sport?
    • Australia
  1. Dream commentary partners?
    • Ian Bishop
    • Natalie Germanos
    • Mel Jones
  1. Who’s going to win the Women’s World Cup?
    • Colombia or Jamaica

READ ALSO: Australia & New Zealand to host 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Ritam Mitra
Ritam Mitra
Ritam is an award-winning journalist and lawyer based in Sydney. Ritam writes on domestic and global politics, human rights and social justice, and sport.

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