I love IPL. Of course, just like most self-appointed cricket pundits, I blame it for everything—from Sehwag’s creaky shoulders to the declining moral standards of today’s kids (so much so that women are now being provided official “male escorts” in an IIT ). But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it, at least as much as I enjoy national treasure and my choice for the next President of India T Rajendar showing how…well…you decide [Video]
Correction. I used to love the IPL. A long time ago. This was when Lalit Modi, the second most controversial Modi in the country, a visionary like the Ringling brothers and Heff, used to be the impresario. He realized that people don’t as much love the game as they do the excitement. And so he manufactured it. Four-play. Fore-play. Fashion shows. Passion shows. Hyperventilating anchors. Hitting the sweet spot while being DLF-ed. Quick strategic time outs with just enough time for an out-and-out strategic quickie. Citi moments of success on the ground. Many more off it.
Sure it was not cricket. But why should it have to be? As a matter of fact, when I close my eyes, the most pleasant recollections of IPL are almost never truly cricketing. All the games have simply become in my mind, a continuum of vaguely formed images, set to Ravi Shastri saying “Nomoksar Kolkota are you ready?” , Arun Lal exclaiming “The excitement at the ground is just so exciting”, and Sunny’s contented “Mmm…mishti doi”. All a mess in my mind, a flicker of randomly moving bats and bouncing balls, jumbled up like the sequence of events or the faces of the actors in a porn video, sought to be recalled, years later.
Instead what remains in my memory, pure in its pristine tranquility, is Sreesanth, bawling like a baby whose diaper has not been changed by a forgetful nanny. Priety mam hugging every “Chikni Chameli” member of her team. Bhajji having his greatest moment after the 2001 Australia series, doing that “Dirty Dancing” lift immortalized by Patrick Swayze. And finally, those images from “IPL Nights” where the players were seen playing with comely lasses, and doing what they do best on-field—pinching a single, squeezing a double and surreptitiously stealing a triple.
Then they got rid of Lalit Modi. Of course, the hypocrites of this country could not tolerate a geeky guy having fun and then rubbing the faces of the rest into the mud with his “Doncha just want my lifestyle” arrogance. He was replaced by humorless, excitement-sucking Dementors, whose idea of fun lay in changing auction rules at the last moment, making rules that benefit some teams and not the others leaving a few with bigger purses than the rest, and in general being gigantic killjoys. As a result, when IPL 5 came along, I was feeling the same sense of excitement as I do after reading a tweet from the Prime Minister’s Office. The only saving grace in 2011 had been the orange-jerseyed, old-age-home that was the Kochi Tuskers and even that they had been done away with. Which is why for the first time since IPL began, I did not pen a pre-IPL post on the blog.
I thought I had grown out of it all.
I was wrong.
The first stirrings were felt when I saw pictures of the sumptuous Katy Perry, who by virtue of having solemnized her now-broken marriage in India is an honorary “gaon ki beti”, being held “cross-seam” by Douglas Bollinger (pic courtesy Gulf News), in a very Bullah mood. This was IPL gold. The second fauladi mukka was the news that Salman Khan’s bodyguard had been hired to protect the Rajasthan Royals. As a keen between-the-lines-reader, I saw the item for what it actually was. No. Not a move to protect the players from the fans. But to protect the fans from the players. From a particular player, to be precise. Namely RR’s newest acquisition, Sreesanth, who had already gotten into trouble for scaling a wall, a fact that would not have gone down well with either the wall or “The Wall”, or for that matter with the franchise owners, who have been worried about unwelcome intrusions ever since baboons got into their room during IPL 2.
More was to come. While I was reluctantly getting adjusted to Archana Vijay, who honestly is a far less pleasant sight than Murali Vijay (Archana Vijay may be the better batsman on current form though), I perceived the new Rabindra-sangeet-friendly KKR cheerleaders. A sharp intake of breath. A romantic sensation. Just like the first time I saw Peter Jackson’s imagining of Saruman’s genetically-manufactured uber-Orcs, the Uruk-Hai. Beautiful.
What really shivered by timbers however was the incident in the match between the Deccan Chargers and Mumbai Indians. In it, after a decision went against them, Bhajji and Munaf Patel went ape-shit on the umpire (image via MSN), in a way that made Gatting of Gatting-Shakoor Rana fame look positively Gandhiian. I thought to myself then “These guys would be lucky if they get away with a 3-game ban. Honestly the captain should be put away for the tournament.” Till, of course, the camera moved to the franchise owner Nita-bhabhi who had on her face, an indulgent “Kindly adjust or you are a child-hating curmudgeon” smile, the kind a guardian gives while her cherubic wards trash your living room. I knew it then. Nothing would happen. And I was right. Well, to be honest, the two men were chided a bit for being naughty. What punishment did they get? The same that Ganguly got for wearing improper dress.
And now with all this happening, I can truly say that I am getting into the IPL groove once again. Sure the Pied Piper is no longer there. Sure we miss the South African beauty queens, the “brand ambassadors” and the “motivators”. Sure the Bangladesh Premier League and the Duronto Rajshahis have taken some of IPL’s thunder. But there are other things going on, like Priety Zinta’s endearingly animated khalbali after that doubtful catch was upheld against Marsh and Sania Bhabhi and Pakistan-putra becoming official Pune cheerleaders.
I will just have to keep my eyes open.
Any cricket I see will be purely incidental.