I know the Indian Premier League is not cricket because I love watching it. I’ve always hated cricket as far back as I can remember.
Growing up, when we visited my maternal grandmother’s house every Saturday and my mother’s brother played corridor cricket with his nieces and nephews, I was the only child who watched sullenly. On weeks when they were low on energy, they turned to an inane pastime called Book Cricket that involved lots of seemingly random numbers and a notebook. I always ran away to sing Raj Kapoor songs with my grandma.
The only thing I remember about Indian cricket in that era was that Ravi Shastri once won a shiny foreign car. It was the first time I had seen an Audi.
I could identify Sunil Gavaskar, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and Shastri but after hotties Mohammad Azharuddin and Wasim Akram, the faces became blurry. From the current crop, of course I know Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, but when you say Ravindra Jadeja or Suresh Raina there’s no corresponding image in my head.
Purple reign: Shah Rukh Khan’s not had a good season. Swapan Mahapatra / PTI
But the IPL? I was hooked from the word go. I live tweeted parts of the IPL auction held on 19 January and I can tell you the name of the carnival’s most expensive player—Kieron Pollard, sold for $750,000 to the Mumbai Indians—even though I have no idea what his achievements were before he came to India (though I do know that he finally strutted his stuff only at the 11th hour/game, against the Delhi Daredevils).
But then, the IPL’s not cricket.
It’s India’s latest, most exciting 24/7 reality television show. When was the last time anyone spun such a sleazy, gripping tale of film stars, cricketers, politicians, CEOs, diplomats and everyone’s favourite hiding-in-the-woodwork gangster Dawood?
The action began with an Indo-Pak spat on the day of the auction and hasn’t slowed since. Even Pakistan’s foreign minister got involved in that first battle. I don’t blame you if you’ve forgotten the Shiv Sena’s threats against Shah Rukh Khan for “supporting” Pakistan players—so much has happened since.
After that there was a press conference to announce that the colour of an unlucky team’s jersey had changed from shimmery gold to royal purple. And another announcement noting that the jerseys of you-know-who’s favourite team were inspired by the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.
There were all those party pictures—and the fans who paid Rs50,000 because they wanted to catch the after-hours action live or paid to get their names printed on their favourite team’s jersey. There were old affairs and new affairs. And an entire separate category for Yuvraj Singh’s rollicking sex life. There was the annual battle for broadcast rights. There was actress vs actress and brother vs brother—all in the same match. The star captain who bitched out his team in a press conference—and then promptly got out for 10 runs in the next game he played. The chief minister who wanted to ban cheerleaders who, because of last year’s controversies, were already wearing additional clothing. The dramatic reinvention of the country’s most high-profile corporate wife.
And of course, as we head to the climax of this season’s biggest entertainer, the action only gets more outrageous. There are allegations of match fixing and SMS death threats; a gender debate, the sale of a team and a $50 million bribe. The country’s minister of state for external affairs may resign, the truth behind the show’s Smoke Monster may or may not be unveiled this season, and Parliament will take time out from naxalites and food security to tell us how it believes this should all end. And after it’s all over, you can relax in the knowledge that next season, things will only get bigger and badder.
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