IPL and polls: many similarities with one difference
Apr 17 2014
There can be no greater proof that T20 cricket is entertainment and not sport, than the current edition of IPL: it’s being played in the Gulf, so although there is a large Indian population there, it’s unlikely there are any city loyalties — so when Mumbai Indians played against Kolkata Knight Riders in the opening match, the crowd could have included in large numbers people from Kerala and Andhra, but very few from Mumbai or Kolkata.
Something like that doesn’t even happen in the far more accessible and older game of football: Manchester United’s large support base comes from the city of Manchester; Liverpool’s from Liverpool and so on. If you played a Manchester United versus Liverpool match in, say, Abu Dhabi, would the stadium be packed? Would the full house be cheering lustily for one or the other team right through the game? I doubt it. Yet the opening match between holders MI and outsiders KKR was a sell out, and the din had to be heard to be believed.
Like countless others, I watched the action from the comfort of my living room. And, perhaps, like countless others, found my ‘expertise’ going for a toss every few overs. For example when Jacques Kallis was able to score only in singles for the first few overs, I said wisely, “T20 is a young man’s game, and Kallis is not a young man.” Kallis then went on to play a blinder. When Michael Hussey began busily in his inimitable style, I said cleverly, “Age cannot dim Hussey’s skill,” and the Australian floundered badly. Later Anderson, the big hitter from New Zealand and Pollard, the big hitter from West Indies, strode in confidently. “These guys,” the expert in our living room said, “can make a mockery of an impossible target”. Pollard and Anderson swung their bats powerfully, and powerfully hit nothing. If you are wise, you will keep your opinions to yourself, and let the experts in the commentary box do all the chattering (except when it’s Navjot Singh Sidhu’s turn, in which case you should turn the sound off).
Watching an IPL game, you become an impure purist: ‘impure’ because you are cheering shots for which no textbooks have yet been invented, and ‘purist’ because you begin to cheer for a great shot, a wonderful ball, an incredible catch, irrespective of which team is doing the batting, bowling or fielding. In short, you are applauding what needs applauding in a completely objective way, unhindered by thoughts of patriotism or regional loyalties. So whether it’s Zaheer or Narine, Kallis or Rayudu, Morkel or Malinga, you are cheering for the feat, not the man. What can be purer than that?
An excellent example of the opposite was the world T20 final. We all cursed Yuvraj Singh for his UPA-II act (policy paralysis). But blinded by patriotic fervour, we forgot that a lot of it had to do with the last three Sri Lankan bowlers’ incredibly clever and pin point accuracy — so good that even the greatest finisher in the game, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, scratched around doing nothing.
If there’s a problem with the IPL, it is that it’s like our general elections: never ending. Our elections last over a month; so will IPL. The elections keep switching venues; so does the IPL. Elections produce a non-stop cacophony of noise; so does IPL. Elections throw up surprises every day; so does IPL. The captains speak too much in elections; so they do in IPL. We are, with our one solitary vote, mere spectators in the elections; so are we in the IPL. But, and vive la difference, the election are one great big bore, not the IPL.