Days of our Lives!

April 21, 2008

Why the IPL needs all the extra glitz it can attract!

Filed under: My Cup of Socie-Tea,Sports,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 2:24 AM

Now that the IPL has finally begun in all its hype and hoopla, everyone seems to be asking just the one question – why do we need all this glitz, glamour and sideshows for a cricket match. To understand this, one would first need to understand the Indian cricket fan. There are essentially two types :

One is the cricket sport fan.
The one who has a genuine love of cricket as a sport and is able to appreciate the fine nuances of the game. He understands the subtle changes in the spinner’s flight and angle according to the batsman and the field or the way a batsman changes his grip slightly to bring more of his bottom hand into play. To him, watching a cricket match is an experience, understanding the critical passages of play, riding the ebb and flow of the match and becoming a part of a most intricately constructed drama where he becomes one of them. For such a fan, even seemingly boring passages of play – low-scoring scraps, batsmen biding time by letting balls go by, a spinner bowling six maiden overs in a row – fascinate and fill his mind with action, adding to the drama slowly unfolding around him. Unfortunately, for such a fan, going to the cricket ground is not necessarily a requisite option. He wants to follow the game at the micro-level – close-ups of the batsman as he prepares to face, the change in grip as the bowler decides to go cross-seam – none of which can be done if he’s sitting near square-leg in a pathetic stadium and can’t even follow which way the ball is swinging, never mind the inaccessibility to tools for his own analysis (pitch-maps, replays, comparisons, etc).

The other is the cricket entertainment fan.
He looks at cricket as another means of entertainment, another Bollywood movie, with a Dhoni or a Yuvraj as the hero. For him cricket is about the story of the good guy winning against the bad guy, the hero who would do all the things that he wanted to, but couldn’t. And just the way the movie fan leaves the theater muttering his dissent if his hero couldn’t win in the end in one of those tragic-dramas, the same goes when his team doesn’t win and in which case we have effigy-burning and house-stoning. This fan wants fours and sixes and excitement and action and confrontations and shots of women in the crowd. He just wants to be entertained. This is the Indian Cricket Fan that the outside world gets to see – the one who builds temples for his idol but also throws bottles on fielders and burns effigies. This fan is not crazy about cricket – he’s crazy about Indian cricket, more specifically the international version, which is why India was the only country where domestic 20-20 was such a huge flop last June.

However, it is this second category of fans who make cricket such big business in India. Their blatant ignorance of the sport in question is entirely besides the point, because they are the ones who bring in the moolah by flocking to the grounds, paying millions for sweaty shirts worn by their heroes, and generating billions in revenues for the BCCI. This is why so much coverage of the game is hyperbolic, designed to keep viewers perpetually excited. This is also the reason most commentators are ex-cricketers, hired for being familiar to a celebrity-obsessed audience, and rarely for the insights they offer – why we are forced to hear a Rameez Raja’s “That was a fast ball. Make no mistake. The mistake was made by the batsman” or an Arun Lal’s “That ball was in the air for a while, but it didn’t quite reach the fielder”. The commentary is mostly rhetorical and the commentators are mere summarisers with a delivery like the Speaking Clock. It’s playing to the gallery that knows no shades of grey – just black and white – which is why even experienced retired cricketers, even taking their relative lack of common sense into account, judge a shot as splendid or terrible based on just the result.

So for the IPL to sustain, the cricket is not going to be enough. The category of fans who matter for the balance-sheets are not going to want to pay good money day in and day out for 3 hours where more than 50% of the players are cricketing nobodies from the Ranji wilderness. This is the reason why Lalit Modi and co feel there’s a need for firangi cheerleaders and Akshaye “I-act-only-in-multi-starrers” Kumar swinging down cables; why SRK feels it is fine to dance away in the crowd, how much ever patronising or contrived it may look; why we have gold coloured pads, orange helmets and Gavaskar commentating in ultra-speak mode.

So rather than asking why we need all this razzmatazz to be a part of cricket, we should look at IPL cricket as just a part of the packaging for the category of fans that matter. The IPL is for the masses, pure and simple, a 3 hr movie for the star-crazed fan, with generous doses of hype and masala and girls and action and high-velocity entertainment. The cliche of IPL being the marriage between Bollywood and Cricket suddenly makes sense – both are essentially based on and serve just one particular quality/need of the fan.

ps : if you’ve come till this, you belong to category 1 and I love you, but if you haven’t then better get your fat backside off to the Chinnaswamy stadium – Mallya’s got some Redskins with pom-poms for you.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    Comment by Ottayan — April 21, 2008 @ 9:11 AM | Reply

  2. Excellent write up. Even I wondered why they needed the glam.

    Comment by Ottayan — April 21, 2008 @ 9:12 AM | Reply

  3. Since I’m neither, my comments are just restricted to an overview.It seems to me the after-effects to IPL would leave us with either more appreciation and love for good cricket sans drama for Prototype-A Fan or more glamour ridden masala driven sports deem fit to compete with the DDLJsEitherwise its the BCCI whooping for joy.

    Comment by Incognito — April 21, 2008 @ 1:22 PM | Reply

  4. Sachin Tendulkar’s son is called Arjun. The wife of Mukesh Ambani, owner of the Mumbai Indians, is called Nita. Mohammad Azharuddin’s wife is called Sangeeta.And I am yet to know the names of half the people in each team.

    Comment by ambi — April 23, 2008 @ 3:10 PM | Reply

  5. @ottayanThanks.@incognitoMake it the BCCI’s having their briyani and eating it too.

    Comment by santhosh — April 23, 2008 @ 5:01 PM | Reply

  6. True. But I think the blame also lies with your cat 1 fans also.On a related note,realised how every six is now a “DLF Super Six”? The commentators are also part of the deal, the way all talk only in superlatives.

    Comment by krishat — April 24, 2008 @ 1:08 PM | Reply

  7. what about the third kind? the kind that doesn’t give a crap about the game and just stumbled by your blog cos ur bookmarked? are we the bad guys? 😀

    Comment by markiv — April 30, 2008 @ 5:19 PM | Reply

  8. i love u too sweety!

    Comment by crazyBugga — April 30, 2008 @ 8:21 PM | Reply

  9. @markivA third kind doesn’t exist! (with that evil look and a sly smile to my sidekick)@crazybuggaOh dear! Oh dear, oh dear!

    Comment by santhosh — May 29, 2008 @ 7:21 PM | Reply

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