Tuesday, June 3, 2008

IPL – A smartly packaged and spicily served drama!

It is a little difficult to accept the emergence of sudden change and the shattering of conventionally understood cricket. IPL has forced both cricket followers and non followers in huge numbers to acknowledge the changing trends in mass demands. We as a nation were desperately in need of quality evening entertainment. We were bored and fed up with ill-dressed television anchors, over confident and under prepared news anchors, reality shows of every hue and color and scheming, decked up mother in laws and their bedfellows.

Package and spice:

IPL, Lalit Modi and BCCI’s s version of ICL saw and exploited this opportunity with a win-win formula for all stakeholders – franchises, organizers and players. It played to the average Indian’s need for change and has emerged indubitably successful. Players who had never in their lives played a single test match got a chance to rub shoulders with the likes of stalwarts like Shane Warne, Muralitharan, McGrath, Kallis, Dravid and Ganguly.

A three hour match scheduled in the evenings after office hours with the assured presence of bollywood personalities and energetic cheerleaders is some spice! In a country where actors and cricket stars enjoy cult status, the combination with the added prospect of witnessing the foreign players sharing the dressing room and their strategies with local city boys was bound to be a success story.

Speculative impact:

This kind of club invasion of cricket will no doubt increase the reach of the sport and cultivate new audiences as we witnessed this season. But experts and columnists, players and the odd cricket fan are still unable to predict what impact this will have on the future of cricket as a sport. Is the auction of players vulgar or should it be accepted as the arrival of professionalism in cricket? Are cheerleaders and their antics obscene or are they just the addition of a welcome menu item to the 3 hour course?

Will club culture take too long a time to evolve or have the crowds started cheering for the cities already? Will senior cricketers whose fitness was always under the hammer be able to adapt to this shortened version quickly? Some of these questions came up even after the success of the T20 world cup but never so strongly.

Smart captains and team work:

T20 matches hardly give the players time to breathe and try out new strategies. It is all about shrewd and smart captaincy and team work. Teams like Chennai and Rajasthan wouldn’t have come to the finals but for the presence of able leaders of men in Shane Warne and Dhoni. Agility, good reflexes, strong arms, innovative captaincy, quick counter attacks fetched Rajasthan the trophy. Jadeja, Asnodkar, Pathan, Warne and the rest of the team though not winners on individual merit succeeded because they adapted to any demanding situation better than other teams.

An action packed thriller:

Seeing the inconsequential Mumbai V Bangalore match at the end of the league stage live in the stadium at Bangalore, one could easily feel that the tournament had managed to strike a chord with the populace. Braving the rains, a sizeable crowd had turned out even fully aware that the result would hardly change the course of the tournament.

Colorful cheerleaders, Hindi and Kannada songs blaring form the sound systems in between overs, players who were always looking for runs meant a charged up atmosphere that kept the expectation levels high. The crowd cheered for Jayasuriya, Sachin, Dravid and Kumble alike. Loyalties were forgotten and compromised in the heat of the moment. It was all part of a new spectacle that the game seems to have embraced quickly taking with it the average Indian citizen.

IPL is here to stay; big money is here to stay and cheerleaders are here to stay for contrary to aesthetics, sensibilities and supposed threats to the future of the true gentleman’s game, it is the crowds that will dictate what they want and rightly so!

We can after all enjoy both carnatic music rendered by respectable veterans of nuances as well as pop music rendered by overconfident bold youngsters, can’t we, as Mukul Kesavan seems to ask?

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