Disclaimer: Pranav Jain is a sports editor at the Daily. Pranav was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.
When the world came to a grinding halt in mid-March, so did the second-most-watched sport in the world, cricket.
In Mumbai, India, Tufts sophomore and cricket-fanatic Saumya Mehta was looking for something meaningful to do. The Indian Premier League, which is the most popular three-hour cricket match league in the world, had just postponed its 2020 season indefinitely. As he was attempting to fill the void by talking about cricket nonstop with his equally passionate friends, he noticed something.
“I love talking,” Mehta said.
He saw a natural opportunity from the coupling of both those interests.
“I thought, ‘I spend a couple of hours of my day talking about cricket to my friends, even in an offseason of cricket,’” Mehta said. “Why don’t I just take it one step forward — we record our conversations and put it up for people to [hear].”
Just like that, the Direct Hit podcast was born, with Mehta leading the charge. The podcast, which published 15 episodes over the summer, featured “blunt opinions, sharp takes, and a delightful celebration for their love of the game,” according to the podcast description on Spotify.
Sophomores Akash Jyothish and Pranav Jain, as well as senior Sid Anand, who are all Mehta’s close friends from the Tufts Cricket Club, jumped on the idea that they could spend quarantine conversing about their favorite sport while maintaining contact with their friends from Tufts.
Anand also brought his cricket-loving friend, junior Uzair Sattar, on to the podcast. He quickly became a mainstay and developed a close bond with the rest of its members.
“Even though I barely knew Saumya and his friends before, the podcast quickly became my favorite quarantine activity because of the fact that I was able to connect with them so easily through cricket,” Sattar said.
Although Mehta initially thought that the podcast would just be a fun, short-lived project, Anand asked him after recording one episode, “Let me know what we’re doing next week,” assuming that there would be more. Mehta realized that the podcast could be bigger, noticing that his friends were gaining the same sense of ownership towards the podcast that he had.
Jyothish, Jain, Anand and Sattar all became regular guests on the podcast. Although Mehta was the host for most of the episodes, the others occasionally took on the hosting role.
Jain led an episode that centered around his interest in data analytics. In the episode, Jain spoke about new technologies, including ball-tracking devices and how careful statistical analysis may change the way players are chosen for cricket teams. The episode also featured an extra contribution from junior Kiran Misner, the head of analytics at the Tufts Cricket Club.
Anand hosted an episode about the cricket World Cups, while Jyothish led a talk discussing the role and importance of captains in the sport. Juniors Charles Short and Akash Mishra also joined as key contributors for some of the episodes.
These unique ideas and conversations, including an idea by Sattar to discuss the need for cricket in the Olympics to grow its popularity, were inspired by a change in Mehta’s mindset.
“If I bind everyone to a structure, then topics such as these will just get overlooked,” Mehta said. “The scope that cricket possesses [is] beyond being about the stadium and the ground and about stuff more relevant such as the Olympics and the politics behind the game. Those things really changed how I looked at the podcast.”
Although Mehta initially wanted a strict structure to the episodes, after recording the first few he realized that the conversations were going slightly off track. However, Mehta was reassured by his close friend Archit Jain that this was OK.
“When we had it scripted, we were planning what to talk about and everything was scheduled. When it was unscripted, the enthusiasm was really natural,” sophomore Archit Jain said. “Sometimes more than the content, it’s the enthusiasm that everyone has that matters.”
Mehta noted that the encouraging comments and messages that the podcast received on Instagram, even from those who initially knew little about cricket, were big motivators to keep producing passionate content.
Although the podcast has since grown with tens of thousands of listens on Spotify and over a hundred followers on Instagram, the basic passion behind it was simple: a love for and happiness through the game of cricket.
Mehta sees the potential of the podcast to grow even further, especially with what they have added apart from the podcast. Direct Hit has livestreamed seven of its episodes and has also engaged with its Instagram followers through thought-provoking polls.
“This podcast has the potential to no longer remain a podcast but to become a community platform for people to engage with everything related to cricket,” Mehta said.