The drama began in 2008 when the Board of Control for Cricket Internationally, I mean, in India (BCCI) decided that they needed something different to showcase their plans for future entertainment. Add a dollop of ideas stolen from the erstwhile Indian Cricket League (ICL), a generous flow of money poured in by businessmen and filmstars alike, a splash of semi-nude cheerleaders and extra-loud DJ’s, and you have the birth of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
One must admit that the tournament was inaugurated in unbelievable fashion – courtesy an unbeaten 158 by Brendon McCullum. However, six seasons and sixty thousand scandals into the proceedings, the event has now become less about cricket, and more about unadulterated entertainment.
Case in point, yours truly is one of the admirers of classical cricket. I had bet a friend before the start of this season that even in the whirlwind of T20, I could show him at least three instances of the front foot defence in any given match (Note: This bet did not involve asking any player to do funny things with a towel on the pitch). Seven matches and 17,487 Yes Bank Maximums later, I have to admit I might have lost that one.
The IPL has had its fair share of off-field conundrums too. First came that paragon of virtue, Lalit Modi, to set an example by whipping away 425 crores from god’s own pocket. Unfortunately, we mere mortals did not paint him in the light of a hero for this achievement. Not far behind was Rajasthan Royals bowler and part-time item number Sreesanth, who apparently accepted money from bookies to concede a certain number of runs in his overs. I wonder how stupid a person has to be to actually pay Sreesanth to bowl badly. Also involved in this fixing were two of Rajasthan’s local players, for whom it was the only way they would ever get theirs names on the front page, so we understand their plight.
Fresh scandals include the ones involving former BCCI president Narayanaswami Srinivasan, who stuck to his chair even as his son-in-law, a man whose name I can’t spell, was arrested by Mumbai police for leaking information to bookies and being involved in betting himself. (Fun fact: In 2012, Srinivasan was accused of rigging the 2009 IPL Auctions by Lalit Modi himself. Isn’t that cute?)
The seventh edition of the IPL is coming back to India, having been hosted by the UAE in its initial stages. Now is the time that my countrymen lose their wits and storm out to their local stadiums to scream in support of teams that change every year. For all you know, you are supporting a man you abused last year, and will abuse again this year.
But no logic will percolate through your ears. The IPL is now a celebration, a ritual that Indians unanimously observe every year. The BCCI, by a stroke of genius, has managed to keep the players busy, the audiences busier, and the bookies the busiest.