Monday, April 28, 2008

Slaps, Cheerleaders and Big Business: IPL Musings

The Cricket jamboree has finally dawned on this country. There is strict regulations on media coverage where monopoly has been garnered over using images; also included are 'Slap-Stick' comedy involving players in Mohali that gained more prime-time than any other event; then there are the cheerleaders. There is 'slam-bang' action, big hits, faster runs, swifter turn of events, rising TV timings and much more. The efforts are now to make us believe that IPL is THE BIGGEST THING happening on this planet. In this 'see it believe it' world, sport has got entrenched within the very same system that creates "One Country, Two Nations". That of millions living and struggling for one square meal a day, where hundreds of farmers have committed suicide due to agrarian distress in the countryside, where prices continue to rise thereby further trampling the aam admi and where the country shines & rises for the corporates. On the other end of the spectrum are a handful of multi-billionaires who keep vyeing to always remain in the top brackets. It is into such a volatile milieu that the manna called IPL has made its descent.

As games egg on, with cities in India pushing and shoving to be noticed, where false consciousness is injected with full vigour; thus making people identify and personify their 'model' teams; where sportsmanspirit and camraderie seem to come from the only fact that different nationalities melt with the joining of hands. Big money has come to stay authoratively in this make believe world. The game has been made to move on from the hands of the puritans to that of the entertainers. Throw in the corporates, throw in the big bucks, throw in the big names in entertainment industry and throw in the high-profile sponsors waiting to extract their share from the market. You now have the perfect receipes for the Big Dish. Thats what Cricket in the country in India has got as the label. Matches are being started in tune with the TV timings, with the best example being the Chennai Super Kings v/s Kings XI Punjab match had already crept into the scheduled 8 pm telecast of the Delhi Daredevils v/s Rajasthan Royals match; however, the latter match started only after the entire proceedings in the former match was done with. Entertainment has become the buzzword, with the sooth-sayers and eulogizers crying over the roof tops that the 20-20 format has started attracting the housewives (or as they say the fairer sex back into the drawing rooms in front of the television sets!!)

But such form of Entertainment brings with it crass commercialization and encourages the race for profit as correctly put forth by Nirmal Shekhar. The Cheerleaders of the different franchisees performing in the grounds has already raised much debates and protests. The 'roving cameras' moving in different angles is not only atrocious, but also projects women as mere objects for sexual desire. The commodification of bodies of women resulting from such concepts of cheerleading that have been justified under the banner of them existing in the United States, speaks volumes of the hankering of such culture. The space being occupied in the media by IPL has relegated many other serious issues into the background that include Price Rise, the international situation and even the new lows happening to India's national sport (and thats not cricket), Hockey. The expose of corruption ruling the roost in the administrative establishment of our game (that this was our national sport could only be realized once Chak De made it explicit!!) in an Olympic year where our team has failed to qualify brings home the realization that full degeneration has occured in our sporitng milieu as a whole. The 20-20 version has been often used to underline the need to chuk out the aged and replace them with fresh blood. The failures of Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, and Kumble (Tendulkar not playing in the 1st 4 matches for his team) has been cited as the need to infuse new passions by abandoning the old baggage!!

Cricket has changed..................not only from the white flannels to coloured clothing or from the red cherry to the white kookaburra, but also the perception and larger vision. Money has started speaking BIG!!Players feel more secure in IPL than national duties (Aussies certainly think so and even New Zealand cricket is feeling pressure of both IPL and ICL with fear of desertions!!) Players are even demanding 45 days' window in the ICC Future Tours Programme so that IPL could be conducted smoothly without any 'hitch' of being called for national duties, thus envisioning IPL as a permanent feature not just for the coming 5 years, but mcuh more than that in the future. With the players being professional, they can afford to skip even national duties to play in IPL. After all, its their choice!!But as things stand now, this seems a mere formality. The game plummeting to new depths has been often stated; however, this is not a doomsayer's prophecy. Its a general lament. However, the question is whether anyone is listening?

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