I wasn't really surprised when i read in passing that a stink was raised over cheerleaders at the ongoing IPL tamasha. I thought it was the usual suspects. The Shiv Senas and the much reviled Hindu moral police. But no. I was actually surprised that the hue was raised by our very own Congress party's minister in Maharashtra. And my shock knew no bounds when a Leftist minister Subash Chakravorty of West Bengal continued with this cry.
I was like boy, have the tables turned of what? Role reversal anyone? Is it a plan to have Shiv Sena out of business by hijacking issues close to "their" hearts :). Since when did the "open-minded" Leftists and Congressmen start moral policing? I thought they were the "cool" dudes of India's politics.
Anyways, jokes aside, all this cheerleading BS needs to be seen in a perspective. While politicians may be having their own agenda at opposing it, Ian Botham (the ultimate cricket Casanova) has made some valid points at an article in cricinfo.
In our pursuit of blindly copying USA, we tend to go overboard. Ian Botham has rightly asked for balance between entertainment and the game itself.
While NFL has achieved humongous success in USA, we still talk of the "game" itself. Of course it is glamorized by cheer leaders and rock stars during Super Bowl interval. But thats not all that is to it. And the IPL organizers would do good to note that. In copying NFL or USA in general, they should also see how regulations and checks and balances have been put in place.
By the time IPL's first tournament ends, it may have changed cricket for ever. It is too soon to say what's going to happen. On the face, it seems to have captured the imagination of people in general. The fast food version of the game is here to stay. It would be interesting to see if England, SA and Aussies have their own clubs and there is some merging after say 5 years down the line. Only time will tell.
In any case IPL has got it's timing right. Kerry Packer almost got it right 3 decades back. But the (cricketing) world was not yet ready for it. The infrastructure, the media, the speed was not quite up there. It seems like all forces have to come together to have a fully baked dish ready.
And IPL has seized that moment. It is fair to say, IPL's rebel ICL was a damp squid. It was a non starter and the likes of Brian Lara and Inzy would be kicking their own sad asses to have gone that way. It's a shame that Zee, the org that originally came up with idea, has not much to show for it's success. In today's world, it is success if it is visible, if it is tangible. Zee, just couldn't grab enough eyeballs.
Botham makes another very important point. That of T20 being all about batsman-ship. This is sad. Every one likes to see sixes and fours galore. But in my humble opinion, one of the greatest sites of crickets is when an Akhtar or a Brett Lee comes at full MoFo pace and cartels a batman's furniture. Or when a Shane Warne or Murli make a hapless victim of a dancing batman. Cricket's center of gravity is moving away from bowlers. It may sound sexy in short term, but long term we may end up belittling the game itself. We need bouncy, green pitches so that the games can be fair play grounds for bowlers and batsman alike. Of my list of all time greats, I have more bowlers than batsmen. So may be it is my personal bias here.
IPL has now started with all the reality show like drama (Sounds oxymoron isn't it) with the slap-gate and Bhajji ban in offing. Hope this does not turn into one of those Saas Bahu sagas. It would then be named KKPL.