Monday, May 14, 2012

The IPL tamaasha

I love cricket.

And living in India means you cannot escape the Indian Premier League (IPL).

And how could you miss it? The silken drives of Dravid, the brilliance of Jayawardene and Sangakarra, the fiery pace of Dale Steyn and the fearsome accuracy of Malinga... these and many more cricketing delights are on offer.


 There was this post by Tom Alter on watching Sunil Gavaskar, his cricketing hero, reduced to a gimmick on what they call 'Extraaa Innings'. "Cricket," writes Alter, "is reduced to a sideshow of a sideshow."

And that is when I realised that the game of "cricket" that I knew and loved had been lost.

In the last couple of weeks, when I had crashed onto my bed at night, excited tweets of " rock!!!!!" didn't spur me out of bed to switch on the TV, but those describing the courageous declarations of Michael Clarke and the close finishes that the test matches of the West Indies vs. Australia were producing, did.

Someone wrote about how IPL is the perfect "timepass" for a country which loves "timepass". David Dhawan-Govinda movies worked because they were "timepass", so will the IPL. It is entertainment for the masses.

I realised today how true the "timepass" tag is for the IPL; I now keep the TV on mute and go about my daily chores as I normally would. The game is itself of little consequence; watch a bit of it when passing by and move on.

Mukul Kesavan in this article hit the nail on the head on a number of reasons why the IPL is more a farce than cricket. He compares the IPL to WWF; of how the two are nothing but orchestrated entertainment orgies. It has become a carnival of big hitting where all the audience wants to see are sixes. Sixes did you say? Well, let's sell that and make it a "DLF maximum". Stunning catch? Why not "Karbonn Kamaal catch"? And ultimately, it is all about stringing together "Citi Moments of Success".

Its like selling the soul of cricket to the devil.

Of course, you should completely forget how rules are tweaked and conflicts of interest are shoved under the carpet (and I'm talking about YOU Mr. N. 'India Cements' Srinivasan).

Where the question "Why Munaf Patel and Harbhajan Singh, team member and captain of Mumbai Indians (owned by one of the wealthiest men on the planet), should not be banned from subsequent matches after a behaviour like this?" is never asked.

It is not that the IPL doesn't bring forth moments of cricketing joy. There was *that* six by Sachin off Albie Morkel in the first game of this season's IPL, awesome enough to inspire Sidvee to write this post.

The "away" game that Saurav Ganguly played at the Eden divided loyalties in the city. Sidharth Monga aptly described the excitement and the anxiousness of the days prior to the game and during the match itself.

Then there was that over that Dale Steyn bowled to Richard Levi. Six balls of sheer brilliance, resulting in a maiden over. The last ball of that over was a perfect in-swinging yorker that bowled Levi. And here's what breaks my heart. When today I search for the words "Dale Steyn Richard Levi" on YouTube, all that is available is the last ball of that over. This is the perfect example of what we have reduced this great game to.

Not a game. Not a celebration of skills. But a tamaasha.

If it wasn't evident enough that this was a tamaasha, there are the "cheerleaders". Thankfully, a PR lady in Bangalore interviewed these beautiful girls and showed us how they are actually well qualified young girls from respectable families. Unfortunately that is not how the Indian masses switching on TV see them. Most of them, I'm sure, are waiting to ogle at the slow motion replays of these girls dancing.

But don't I watch the IPL myself? Have I too, like millions others, sold my cricketing soul to the devil? Have I too not defiled the sacred game that was handed over to me by Dad when he took me to Eden Gardens on a chilly winter morning to watch a Test match between India and England?

And then, it struck me. The answer lies in this ad for the 2012 IPL.

I was like the two boys who are discreetly looking for some entertainment. Some "tamaasha". The carnival. Where I can watch the greats of the game peddle their craft for a few coins. Where girls dance atop platforms in front of the crowds. Where the thrill is heightened by the sense of excitement at having watched something which I know was impure.

Is this cricket? Of course not.... "Yeh IPL hai boss!!"


Bubblegum.... said...

Blooooooooooooooooooooogggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg!! Long time no see!

Shekhar said...

Ha ha. Yes. About time I got back to writing. :)

JustSo said...

IPL is like BIGG BOSS, only on a field. cheap thrills and nothing else.

Shekhar said...

JustSo: Perhaps this is why I've never watched a single episode of Big Boss.