Women In Cricket: Kass Naidoo On Fulfilling Her Life Goal And Much More
For many cricket enthusiasts, commentary during a live cricket match keeps them engaged. The gentleman’s game has seen a few women carve a niche, their own space in the heart of enthusiasts in the past few years. These ladies have defied the odds, been through the struggles and then triumphed at the end. One such lady is Kass Naidoo, South Africa’s first female cricket commentator, a life goal which she had set as a teenager and achieved as a 27-year old. Kass is nowadays associated with SABC Sport, commentating on cricket matches and also doubling up as a presenter too. Apart from this, Kass is also an advocate for women’s sports , starting the GSports4Girls initiative.
I caught up with Kass in an exclusive chat.
Q. You never played cricket at the highest level but you still created a career in cricket broadcasting. When did you realize that “hey, this is what I want in life”?
A. At the age of 14, I heard a woman commentating international men’s cricket for the first time and I was inspired to become South Africa’s first female cricket commentator. What I admired about West Indian, Donna Symmonds, was how she maintained her femininity and softness while being commanding in the commentary box. I was hooked and never looked back.
Q. Also, while reading about you, I came across the fact that you set a target for yourself at 14 and achieved at 27. From the starting point till you realized your dream, could you give a lowdown on what obstacles you had to face in the journey of landing your dream job?
A. Once I decided I wanted to be a cricket commentator, I spent hours studying the game, through reading, watching and attending games. The general response to my dream was negative and I used it to fuel my dream further. Every time someone said I couldn’t do it, I forged closer to my dream by learning something new about my craft. Google and later YouTube played a huge role in my self-learning and self-confidence.
Q. Being a woman, trying to make a mark for yourself in a world dominated by men, did you face any type of demotivation or discouragement that “hey, why are you here”?
A. There were mixed views on my introduction to cricket broadcasting. While there was support, I was also criticised by those who insisted I needed to have played the game in order to have an opinion. I learnt early on to take feedback and to grow a backbone.
Q. Describe the moment when you went on-air for the first time ever. What were your feelings at that point of time?
A. It was an incredible moment, hosting my first ever cricket match, live on TV. It was the opening match of the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup between South Africa and West Indies. I was nervous and excited and when it was over, I was able to savor a really amazing first ever experience!
Q. Could you give a lowdown on how you prepare for a match, for a series. What are your methods of preparing for a pre-match, mid-match and post-match proceedings?
A. I always stay in touch with cricket, whether I am working or on, so that gives me good grounding when I am on air. On match day, I wake up at 04:30, do my daily yoga practice, research for the final time, have breakfast, do makeup and standby to go live. I enjoy routines. They are the cornerstone of success.
Q. You also took a diploma in Journalism, if I am not wrong. How well did it prepare you for your career or do you think that on-the-job training is the best?
A. Qualifying as a journalist has assisted me in every career move so far. Knowing how to tell a story, writing a media release, being accurate, learning interviewing skills, etc. These are valuable skills to have and hone. It was the best move I made in terms of following my dream of commentating.
Q. Do you see more and more people like yourself coming into sports broadcasting?
A. Yes, in South Africa, we are seeing more women broadcasters getting involved in the industry across sporting codes. Internationally, it is also that case, and I can only see it improving in the future.
Q. Do you believe that as compared to previous years, doors are much more open for female cricket commentators?
A. The IPL has been a wonderful platform to showcase female cricket broadcasters and it is great to see more broadcasters going the route of including more women on their teams.
Q. You and your husband run “gsport4girls” Foundation. I would like to know from you what prompted you to start this foundation, the driving force behind it?
A. When I was a radio sports presenter between 2003-2006, all I heard from women athletes were stories of struggle. So, I quit my show, and my husband and I launched gsport4girls to raise the profile of women’s sport in South Africa and encourage Corporate South Africa to back our female athletes. We taught ourselves how to build a website, we rented a server and started writing stories. We initially struggled to get people to talk to us because they found it unusual that someone was interested in their journey, their progress and success. Things have improved over the years, and gsport continues to tell the positive story of SA women in sport across gsport.co.za and @gsport4girls across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Q. According to you, what needs to be done more so that women’s sports get the same coverage, get same fan following and same visibility as men’s sport?
A. We need to keep working hard to level the playing fields. Women’s sport needs access to the same resources as men’s sport. We cannot expect women’s sport to grow if there isn’t sincere, consistent support for women athletes. Professional contracts, Marketing and PR budgets, personal endorsements, crowd support… the list is endless. It is great to see more women in sport initiatives launching worldwide encouraging increased support of women’s sport.
Q. What have been your proudest moments as a cricket broadcaster?
A. My proudest moments include commentating for the first time on television in October 2005. It was a full circle moment which I will always cherish. I also relished the opportunity to anchor and commentate on the historic 438 game between SA and Australia. But I am most proud that I was able to take eight years off cricket commentating to have my three children and be welcomed back to do what I love.
Q. Also, your proudest moment in running gsports4girls foundation?
A. gsport turns 12 years old today. I am proud of its growth and I am grateful that we still going, through the good times and the bad. It is not easy supporting women’s sport but it is certainly satisfying that women in sport find value in the work gsport does. I feel proud that gsport4girls is endorsed by Sport and Recreation South Africa and the annual gsport Awards forms part of the official Government Women’s Month program.
Q. How instrumental has been the support of your family, of your co-workers, of your mentors in being the person you are right now?
A. I am grateful for all support I have received over the years and continue to receive. I believe that we can learn something from everyone we come in contact with, and I always grab opportunities to improve my craft. Ultimately, this is a personal journey and the best relationship you can have is with yourself. Can you be alone and work hard towards your dream with no external support? Can you rely on yourself to be your biggest supporter? If the answer is yes, then you are well on your way!
Q. What are the tips, the pieces of advice for those youngsters, especially girls, who see you in South Africa and beyond and wish to be like you?
A. Find your passion. Work hard. Succeed. Stumble. Get up again. Fall in love with something new. Dream big. Win. Live and learn. Enjoy the journey.