Ever since the World Cup started, keeping in with the overwhelming mood of the moment, this column was filled with a surfeit of cricket-centric pieces. To make amends, this week I will focus on something that is totally far removed from actual cricket — the IPL.
Every year I take my daughter to the IPL matches, subtly introducing her to the various rites of passage involved in being a spectator at the stadium. When she grows up, I am sure, she will proudly recall with warm nostalgia how her dad and men of his (middle) age rose over the high-nosed snobbery of Test cricket and embraced the racy excitement of the IPL by ogling at the IPL cheerleaders.
There is one major difference between watching a cricket match on the TV and being a spectator at the stadium where there is IPL action. And it is —- you may want to write this down —– you can escape the advertisements on TV. At the stadium, there is so much bombardment of ads and commercials that sooner or later you will have to come out with your forearms tattooed with the sponsors’ names.
The first lesson
As a spectator at the IPL contests, your foremost task is to secure a seat with the best view —- of the giant screen, that is. If there is no giant screen, all the unmistakable joy of watching live cricket in total flesh and blood is completely lost.
The giant screen is a truly marvellous construct. On it, the players view themselves playing, the spectators watch themselves spectating, the sponsors see themselves sponsoring. Only the umpires see themselves exposed. But never mind, the giant screen is centre to the IPL like Archana Vijay’s dangerously slipping pallu.
If there were no big screens at the stadium most people (certainly those like me) would be waiting till the arrival of the newspapers to even figure out who won the match. Of course, with journalists like me around, they will not be any wiser even after reading the match reports.
The sound of music
Even those who snootily snigger at the IPL, if they get a chance to taste its unbridled fun and joy at a stadium, will doubtless concede that it truly provides an exciting stage to play young talents’ rousing music between the overs.
Yes, if you want to check out what rule the music charts these days, an IPL encounter is the place to be at. They play more music than they do on FM channels, ok with more advertisements in between.
It’s at the IPL you also realise the real truth of our lives: Cricket, if you get down to it, is only a peripheral and trivial pursuit. A rapacious six from Dhoni’s blazing bat may be exhilarating. But it’s the timely blast of Sheila ki Jawani that makes you dance and jive.
The IPL telecasts have been spiced up by the vignettes thrown up by the ‘spider camera’. And you have to accept that IPL-watching at the stadium itself has been spiced by the vignettes of the ‘spider camera’ itself.
Because this remotely-controlled camera, operated on a barely-visible slender steel string, provides the edge-of-the seat thrill of keeping you guessing whether the string will snap, and will the bulky camera fall on any of the player’s head.
As a responsible spectator, you have only two heart-felt wishes on this occasion
1) Let not the camera come down on any of the unwary players because that would mean one camera less to focus on the cheer girls
2) If the first prayer fails, your back-up prayer is: If indeed the wire snaps, then at least the player to come under the blow of the falling camera be: Sreesanth.
One of the major advantages of watching an IPL contest at an ethos-filled city like Chennai with its traditional cricket-worshipping fans is their unfailing ability to spot, and completely go bonkers after that, a cine star.
On that day I was at the stadium, when Edwin Vander Vath was batting, the cameras helpfully panned in on one of the cine stars in attendance, leading to a delirium of whistles and roars of approval from the spectators. Vander Vath would, however, have felt that he was being lustily cheered by the knowledgeable, non-partisan Chennai fans. This is how urban legends are born.
(In all probability, when Wasim Akram and his team were making that lap of honour around the stadium after the famous 12-run victory against India in 1999, the Chennai crowd was giving a standing ovation to a waving Kushboo).
On the giant screen, there were also exhortations, from time to time, ‘shout’. Yes, you are right, they provide cues for these things in the IPL. Upon the flash of ‘shout’ on the giant screen, putting its sound knowledge of cricket to good use, the sporting Chennai crowd broke into loud shouts. Of course, when the ‘shout’ signal was also not on, the crowds were still knowledgeable enough to keep shouting.
As I said, IPL is a scream.
Tail Piece: The biggest roar of approval of the day unsurprisingly went to a man who was not playing in the match, and not even present in the stadium. No prizes for guessing that Maharashtrian’s name. Yes, it was Rajnikanth.
The crowd was at its throaty best when one of his songs was played on the boom-boom boxes. As someone rightly said, there is no bigger cricketing legend than Rajnikanth. He once amassed, on a single day, 6996 runs from the non-striker’s end itself.
Bradman needed an entire career to collect those runs.