Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Irony of IPL

Too Pawar-ful to handle: Shane Warne and Sharad Pawar at IPL Final

Nobody would have though that Yusuf Pathan, the son of a muezzin, would make Rajasthan Royals truly royal with his bat and ball. If his father made his bread by his sonorous voice, Yusuf made his butter by his bat and ball. Yusuf, like his younger brother Irfan, is a shining example of a torrential transformation of a young Indian Muslim. The blood brothers have redefined the concept of economic empowerment for a community whose majority is yet to grapple with the comprehensive meaning of the terminology. The two brothers who grew up playing cricket inside a mosque and a nearby ground wouldn't have dreamt to come so far. If international cricket gave Irfan an opportunity, IPL transformed his brother's shaky cricket career into a stable one. An impoverished family has become stable because of the cricket. IPL has further pushed it into an economic exaltation.

I find it strange why Rajasthan Royals, champions of the first T20 IPL tournament, were billed as underdogs. The underdogs – a coinage of some contemptuous commentators – have proved to be super-dogs. Is there any criterion in cricket to affix the label of underdogs? It was because of the psychology of superiority that our men of mike didn't term Mumbai Indians or Bangalore Royal Challengers as underdogs. After all they are owned by the high and mighty of the corporate world. Cricket is a funny game. Even a Nostradamus can't predict a team's fallout.

The good thing about IPL is that it was the triumph of humility over arrogance. Rajasthan Royals, IPL's cheapest franchisee, was an extremely courteous team. Their win signifies victory of courtesy over callousness. Men of bang were reduced to a whimper: Sachin Tendulkar, Shoab Akhtar, Rahul Dravid; the list is long.

The first IPL tournament was an exercise of "ego-driven carnage" where corporate cats (half of them directly or indirectly related to BCCI) bid to buy cream players. It is altogether a different matter that they couldn't milk enough cream out of them. Corporate greed stings. It has stung liquor baron Vijay Mallya who still believes that money can buy you everything. You can buy men with money but not their talent. That brings us to some interesting questions: Should cricket players be treated as a commodity? Or should they offer themselves for a price, that too in an auction? Is commodification of cricket quite similar to prostitution? Did IPL contaminate the purity of a game called cricket? Although I am not a purist but these harsh questions deserve honest answers.

IPL pioneered the concept of hired cheerleading in the Indian cricket. Whether cheerleaders need a cover drive or an extra cover is a different debate but one thing is certain: we ordinary Indians don't know how to cheer! Since cheering was assigned to surgical babes of Russia and elsewhere, we Indians were left with one thing: cricketing voyeurism! When was the last time, spectators witnessed a surge in their testosterone levels?

In an age of globalization, cricket is shedding nationalistic inhibitions. IPL blurred borders. The wall of race, religion and colour came down crumbling: When did you see Sourav Ganguly hugging Shoab Akhtar? Can an IPL improve Indo-Pak relations? If the answer is yes, we should play more T20 matches.

The irony of IPL lies with the iron man of Maharashtra: Sharad Pawar. A strange sense of nostalgia engulfed me as I watched Sharad Pawar distributing medals and prizes. His was a truly remarkable gesture of honouring men who deserved it. The iron man happens to be India's agriculture minister as well. Had he rewarded India's farmers, things would have been different. All he did was to dish out a dole of loan-waiver. The loan-waiver means nothing to a farmer who wouldn't have repaid it anyway. Thousands of farmers have committed suicide in Vidarbh region in Maharashtra. Sharad Pawar should have remembered them at his finest moment of 'cricketainment' career. The game of cricket can never take place without a farmer's cotton. The "stench" of money in IPL can make one nauseating. May be IPL should donate some for the have-nots. A question for Sharad Pawar: Can't IPL have a farmers' fund?

In the first half of twentieth Century Cricket was part and parcel of the British colonization. In the twenty first Century, Indians are colonizing fellow Indians.


Anonymous said...

Nice article! And nice blog; would love to see writeups on Muslim writers in India.

Ekram Kabir
BBC World Sevice

Kartikey said...

your first paragraph about Muslims in unnecessarily hopeful. there have been several instances in the past when the 'underdogs' have got their due. for every one or two like Pathan, there are 1000 in India that land up nowhere.

And as for Rajasthan Royals, it was the media that portrayed them as weak. in cricketing terms, they were never weak; they were just cheap.
you are simply playing into media's hands by saying how the expensive players landed up with very little.
it's a sport, we win, we lose, and money does not dictate the outcome.