After the rant on the World Cup ads, it is only fitting that I do a review on this year’s IPL as well. For those who are visiting from Neptune, the Indian Premier League is the world’s second largest sporting franchise. In just four years, the league has created a worth of 3.67 billion dollars.
While it is true that Indians love cricket, and will watch the highlights of a Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh match on a Sunday afternoon, there is something more than just the Indians’ love for cricket that keeps the IPL going.
IPL is truly the first by-product of Bollywood and cricket. Well, there is Saif Ali Khan, but he took really long to take off. IPL has been able to cater to the two largest categories of people in India: those who watch cricket and those who watch films. The only ones left out are terrorists, babas, and the Monkey Man. And Indians are a loving and forgiving audience. How else can you explain a Sanjay Manjarekar, who had no skills to talk of managing to play for ten years? And Suneil Shetty, whose greatest competition is himself and a few trees, still manage to remain in the news?
IPL has been able to bring together both these loving and forgiving audiences and given them something new to trip over every evening, for 45 evenings a year. So Shilpa Shetty is the Big Sister of the Rajasthan Royals, and manages to bring Small Sister to the matches too, thereby ensuring her television time as well. And girls fromDelhiwould say “Yo! KKR rawx” on Facebook even though their knowledge of cricket would be limited to the idea that ‘no ball’ is a physical condition.
The biggest difference this year was the absence of the creator, Mr. Modi himself. For three years, Modi lived his dream, rubbing shoulders with Bollywood actresses, having a million followers on Twitter and the like.
Citi Moments of Success and DLF Maximum have become a part of everyday lore. There is a match everyday and the newspapers trying to make things look interesting every morning. This year wasn’t much difficult. Preity Zinta’s team still sucks, the cheerleaders still jump and laugh in joy after every boundary.
The Good: There cant be much good left in the fourth edition, excepting Rocky IV, but this year, there was something that was a treat to the fans: Chris Gayle. Its really marvellous, the impetus a nice fat package does. This IPL, he was Krish Gayle: he booted the bowlers out of the pack, took wickets in every match, and dived while fielding. I mean, when did you see Chris Gayle dive for anything? But this year, its as if Chris crashed into Mallya’s party and said “Yo maan! Wassap? Gimme ma Passat”. Turning out one champion performance after another, it really was a treat to watch Gayle when he is in that kind of form and Venkatesh Prasad is in the same team, and will not be bowling.
It was a little sad to watch Shane Warne bow his hat. Like his international career, Warnie did it with typical showman charisma. Coached and captained the leanest team to victory, and retired when he still had it. But the end has to come, and Warne, with Liz Hurley at his side, looks ready for a new kind of match, and one can only wish him luck, and remind him that it is possible to track and retrieve text messages. Apart from these two, I cant see much that was special this year.
There were a lot of things to crib about, though, and we shall analyse each of them one by one.
Advertisements: Zoo-zoos managed to retain interest, thanks to some good ads. Many of the other ads were repeats from the World Cup, but trust Shah Rukh to come up with something new for his fans.
KKR ads are like SRK films: loud and dramatic. Through all his ads, he seems to be asking his fans if they really are smarter than a fifth grader. So this year, they came up with a campaign through which fans could pass on a message to the cricketers. So how do you show that you can get your voice across to the team? Ok, how about this? We make Shah Rukh speak in the voices of the people. Very subtle.
So there are ads where SRK walks into the dressing room and asks his team to drink lassi, burst bubblewrap, and gives a player a head massage.. Fans of Dan Brown will say this could be a hint as to why Dada left the team. May Champ didn’t want a Champi from Champu.
The rest of the ads were the typical IPL ads, hastily made, and in poor taste.
Commentary: The IPL is harvest time for ex-cricketers. Everyone from Chetan Chauhan to Manoj Prabhakar becomes an expert on the day’s proceedings. Only in the IPL can Mark Boucher be on the commentary box one day and then a week later, be playing for one of the teams. There wasn’t much to talk about the commentary. Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar were at it again.
For seasoned viewers of the league, it has become like a game where you guess what they are going to say next. The World Cup victory has brought a halo on them and Sunil Gavaskar seems generally pleased with the world, and has not taken potshots at any Australian cricketer this time.
Studio and Extra Innings: This is something no IPL viewer will ever be able to evade. For a month and a half, he watches Navjot Singh Sidhu. Yes, Navjot Singh Sidhu is still a part of the expert panel. After reports of him having told a fellow commentator “Oye guru, don’t f*ck with me”, Mr. Sidhu is now part of the pre and post match analysis sessions.
Indiaas a nation has learnt to live with Navjot Singh Sidhu. So it is actually fun to watch him draw wonderful similies from thin air, a true artist of the absurd. The cheerleaders are so unexciting, not even the Shiv Sena guys bothered to file a PIL this year.
As a final touch of IPL subtlety, this year Harsha Bhogle and Sunil Gavaskar were wearing kurtas. And just so that you wouldn’t mistake them to be commenting for an ICL match, they had the IPL logo embroidered on their collars and neck.
With two new teams, the IPL has a lot of questions to ask itself. While there will always be speculation about retaining the interest of the viewer, I have a different take on the issue. I watch the IPL for a different reason. IPL isIndia’s show of strength to the cricketing world.
It is the time of the year when the BCCI can jack off its ego in front of the entire cricketing world. The IPL is also the time when every big cricketer in the world is willing to hang up his boots and come to play for a Mukesh Ambani. When South African fast bowler Wayne Parnell says Ashish Nehra is his role model. What greater revenge can India take on Symonds, than to make him share the dressing room with Bhajji for more than a month? Smile and bear it, buddies. But we have the money, and after years of sledging, and abusing, and using mental disintegration techniques, you now play for us. After retiring from your own teams.
Well, I know this is a little pompous thinking. I dont own the Mumbai Indians, but at least there is a deep sense of satisfaction, when I see all these guys – Ponting, Gilchrist, Symonds, and McGrath going ‘under the hammer’, quite literally. And see them appear in tacky advertisements for the money. I hope some Indian company signs Ponting for an ad where he gets kissed by Rakhi Sawant, just for the kick of it.
So it was fun while it lasted. See you guys again next year, slogging your asses off so that Subrata Sahara Roy or Mukesh Ambani can earn some money.
Now, lets get back to reruns of Dharam Veer and No Entry on Sony Max.