The IPL has slowly descended into a comic farce, but not that many people seem to care now. What next for this modern beast?
This thing called the IPL is going on these days, and, oddly, not everyone seems to care. It’s such a pleasant surprise. Maybe I’m just living in a bubble disconnected from reality, I’m not entirely discounting that. But empirically, I’ve noticed that interest in the spectacle that accompanies the Indian Premier League, now in its ninth season — the VIVO IPL 2016 (hooray!) — has dwindled somewhat. The streets are not littered with full kit wankers, to begin with. The internet is only sparsely population with ‘think-pieces’ (such as this attempt) about the tournament. Pubs — hard as they’re trying with IPL happy hours, discounts, special offers, big screens — are not crammed with teary-eyed FKWs prattling on about regional pride. We’re even spending time getting our knickers in a twist over other sports (although that’s mostly to do with Bhai being appointed goodwill ambassador for the Olympics, otherwise who cares?).
Full Kit Wankers: By https://pbs.twimg.com/media
It’s understandable though. There’s only so much drama the average human brain can handle before frustration sets in (unless you’re Hrithik Roshan, Kangana Ranaut, or, you know, that other guy). Super-cool, super-wild parties are exciting at first. So is the sight of Shahrukh Khan celebrating wildly as his adopted team wins and he gets an instant ‘amount credited to your account’ message on his iPhone. One player slapping another on the pitch is fun only the first time; after that it just seems petty, and you criticise the scriptwriters for repeating themselves. Gawking shamelessly at cheerleaders will (or should), sooner or later, give way to more meaningful realisations about sexism, objectification (and flippancy).
Eventually, you realise that it’s all farcical. Fatigue sets in. It’s just a bunch of people doing their jobs to the best of their abilities (leaving aside the tangle of spot-fixing and match-fixing for now), and getting paid briefcases of cash for it. It’s a rich man’s plaything, and that’s all the substance there is to it. Teams keep getting kicked out; players shift loyalties, as do fans; new teams with ridiculous names sprout up (Rising Pune Supergiants, Sunrisers Hyderabad… what?); owners flee the country. You finally, nine years later, notice how awful and unimaginative the team names are: “OK, you be Kings XI, we’ll be Super Kings. They’ll be Supergiants. Those guys can be Indians, because it’s an Indian tournament, get it? And… what’s that movie with the blind superhero?”
There was a legitimate thrill about the IPL when it first began. People were resistant, then intrigued, then fascinated, then sold on the concept. Lalit Modi (let’s not take away credit) did what Kerry Packer had two decades ago (sort of). Cricket became fun again; it was no longer a snoozefest, no more a ‘gentleman’s game’ with neatly pressed cardigans and “Good morning, kind sir” being tossed about. The IPL was a high-octane, steroided, YouTube clip-show version of a sport on the brink of irrelevance (if I may be hyperbolic). The inaugural edition even had the unsung Rajasthan Royals, led by our favourite chubster, Shane Warne, somehow winning the whole thing. It was, despite the hype and the big-money lard around it, a faint symbol of hope.
So it’s only fitting that the Rajasthan Royals don’t even exist now, facing a two-year ban for match-fixing.
Speculating on the downfall — perceived or otherwise — is probably best left to people more knowledgeable about the subject than this writer. However, from the outside, it’s easy to see that the tournament became almost entirely about the frills and the peripherals, about power plays and assertion of manhood, and less about the sport itself. The players became soldiers, serving the shadowy interests of Bollywood celebrities, industrialists doing black-to-white or seeking PR makeovers, cement companies, political never-weres, and (worst of all) bookies. The spectacle, the circus around the IPL, became all-consuming. Players from some countries were banned from partaking in the festivities, from worshipping the cash Cow. Others ended up fighting with their national boards over scheduling clashes, while others still broke away and decided to form a rebel league, only to return with a whimper and tail between legs.
By Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan
The theatrical elements of the IPL — the drama, the subterfuge, the affairs, the conspiracies, the parties, the cheerleaders, the fights, the betrayals, the multi-crore rupee contracts — were delightful the first few years. But the law of diminishing returns seems to have kicked in. Those same histrionics don’t quite cut it anymore. They need to go bigger, badder, more absurd, more shocking and sickening, just to get my attention. A gripping last-over or last-ball finish is now nothing more than a matter of course. I want, we want, a super Super Over climax, with cursing, tears of joy and despair, Roid Rage. Not stray slaps but 22-man weapon-and-testosterone-enhanced brawls. And even that might not be enough.
Why not drop the charade entirely then? It is, after all, what fans and casual/occasional viewers want. I loved wrestling (WWF, now WWE) as a kid — I probably would still, but I feel I’m too old to watch it — and the best part of it was the soap opera aspect and all the beef (are we allowed to use that word?) the wrestlers pretended to have with each other. That used to rouse crowds and me. The IPL guys have more than enough money, thanks to superstardom and good business sense, as well as corruption and kickbacks (allegedly) — so maybe they should just hire Bollywood’s finest (?) scriptwriters and get them to spin some explosive yarn. Just to bring back the magic. Otherwise good riddance.
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By Akhil Sood
Cover Photo Credit: indianexpress.com