What makes a writer follow a story? Ask sports writer Sharda Ugra and the reply comes almost immediately: "Curiosity".
Explaining this, she states an example: Almost 30% of footballers in India come from the northeastern states.
"Why is a relatively small region with a fraction of our population contributing so many players? Journalists need to ask these questions and have the curiosity to find answers," said Sharda, who was speaking at the Bangalore Literature Festival, alongside former Australian umpire Simon Taufel and Indian cricketer Mayank Agarwal, at a panel discussion on 'Writing Sport'.
Sharda is a senior editor with ESPNCricinfo and has been a journalist for three decades now. She began her career in November 1989. In April 2018, she reported on the state of football in the northeastern states of India. She specifically focused on Assam, where she found that the league football was not developed and that young footballers subsequently left to other states in their teenage years.
Sharda is among the few women sports journalists to report on cricket, which is her forte, and just as easily, she covers football, tennis and basketball.
She also recollected an incident from one of her first stories as a sports journalist in 1989 for the audience. "It was the time when Sachin Tendulkar was making his test debut in Pakistan. I looked up a telephone directory in Mumbai and found the landline number of his family. I called the number up and spoke to his (Tendulkar's) brother and parents for a quote on how they feel," she said explaining the difference in how sports journalism has changed today.
To this, Simon Taufel wondered if Tendulkar's phone number will be available anywhere now. Taufel, who won five consecutive ICC Umpire of the Year awards between 2004 and 2008, and is considered one of the best cricket umpires of his time. He spoke about the mental aspect of being a cricketer and a cricket umpire.
Indian cricketer Mayank Agarwal, who is from Karnataka, also received a warm response from the audience at the festival. He shared his experience of struggling in the Ranji Trophy before making his surprise debut in the Indian test team in December 2018.