The gorgeous girl next door? Beauty with brains? Outstanding singer? Suave anchor? Or a no nonsense cricket presenter, who is forever sharp, witty and confident? How do you define Shibani Dandekar?Well, here’s the thing – Shibani is all of those and more. And it is not easy being her. (Meet the ladies who left their mark on the IPL)The ethereal beauty shot into national limelight back in the summer of 2011. As India geared up for the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League, days after the highs of the World Cup at home, Shibani captured the imagination of a nation that was dealing with an overdose of cricket on prime time television.Standing in the unrelenting heat with the microphone, interviewing cricketers in their own den, with a smile that radiated grace and charm, Shibani announced her arrival as one of the first female cricket presenters, who was here to stay. It was easy to dismiss her appointment as a glamourous stunt, intended to attract more eyeballs to an already popular talk-show that previewed and reviewed IPL matches. But Shibani was far more than just a pretty face and she was determined to prove it. It was hard work – she was an outsider and a novice amidst the likes of Gaurav Kapoor, Samir Kochar and Archana Vijaya.All three had been there done that but Shibani was plucked out of thin air and asked to deliver on one of the biggest platforms in the world. Was she ready for it? Was she confident of success? Her answer, as it turns out, was a loud NO!advertisementA friend recommended her name for an audition when Sony went to town hunting for new IPL anchors. Much against her wish, she turned up and drew rave reviews from the powers-that-be. One of the top honchos from the channels got in touch and the rest was history.”When I got to know that they liked my audition, I was really nervous. It’s not like I did not want the job but I was wondering how I’d do any justice to it! I was always passionate about cricket but to talk about the game in front of cameras was another thing,” Shibani told intoday.in in an exclusive chat.In New Delhi to shoot for a Bollywood movie, Shibani was candid about how it all transpired half-a-decade ago. Her father, a cricket buff, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and encouraged his daughter to accept the job. It was a coveted role and he was sure Shibani would work her magic. She did and how!Shibani, who was admittedly nervous and scared, went about it professionally. To her, the glamour was the least interesting aspect of the job. Hours of homework on statistics and player information followed and by the time she was set to go on air, Shibani was a near-finished product.”Before I started, I wrote down the names of players, their teams, their captains and their coaches and stuck them on boards around the house. So every time I walked past one of them, I could revise and remember. It wasn’t easy,” says Shibani who was part of a power-packed four-member team for Extraa Innings from 2011 to 2015, with the exception of 2013.Shibani is a perfectionist and she left no stone unturned to excel. In the years that followed, she grew in her role and established herself as one of the most respected TV presenters in the country. “I sat for hours with the venue producer before every match to prepare myself. I would talk to the stats guys to keep myself updated. The preparation was rigorous.”If I made a mistake on air, I would get really disturbed later and talk to the producer till he asked he me to forget about it and move on,” she said.The stereotypes, often associated with good-looking female presenters disturb Shibani. She was among the first to attempted to break away from that mould and her success has perhaps paved the way for many women to follow suit.”Speaking for myself, it was important to realise why I was chosen for the job. I understand the need to balance out men and women in the show and it was great. But more importantly, I had to decide if I wanted to stay on as a female presenter or a turn myself into a serious cricket presenter, whose views would be heard and respected.”She sure did a great job of it. After four editions of the IPL, Shibani was asked by two men who went by the names of Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne to work at the Cricket All Stars in the United States late last year. That was a culmination of the hard work she had put in at the IPL and the respect and admiration she had earned from players and fans alike.advertisement”It was a great moment for me to be recognized by Sachin and Warney. The Cricket All Stars was lot of fun. To see all those legends sitting there together, talking cricket and respecting you for who you are, was an amazing feeling. My father was slightly jealous of me,” she said with a wink.Shibani’s voice, as it echoed across drawing-rooms in the country, had become a regular feature in the IPL. Her charisma worked and her hard work paid off. She concedes she got the space and the time to prove herself – cricketers, who she interviewed were patient and knew she would make it big. Now she has. Miss Dandekar is now one of the most well-respected and recognized sports presenters in the world!But Shibani would know that her battle against the odds is not yet over. She fought to bring in a huge doze of respect to her profession but they need to be given a level playing field. She was part of a crack team that worked wonders in the IPL but it somehow seems that Shibani and Archana have been treated unfairly in the recent sweeping changes. The men and women in this instance, have got different bargains. It could have been in the best interest of the broadcasters to continue with two of their most formidable stars – instead two new novices have been put in place, almost like someone was keen to undo everything Shibani ever stood for.Strangely enough, Shibani (along with Archana) is not part of the IPL this year but the lady is busy shaping up her Bollywood career. And she has no qualms in admitting that the IPL was a great platform for her and given another opportunity, she’d do it all over again, with that radiant smile.