To begin by saying the IPL has truly revolutionised cricket is very easy. For, every other newspaper article on the IPL has begun by saying just that. Even scorecards say this and then only begin to list out the number of runs scored and wickets taken, probably by the sponsors as sixers and wickets come attached with their name tags.
Anyway, cricket is indeed revolutionised if you manage to expand the idea of cricket revolution to include some increase in Ravi Shastri’s vocabulary. Now there is decidedly more ammunition to his verbal arsenal, and it involves dramatic adjectives like ‘DLF’, ‘Citi’.
As the IPL’s sponsors’ list gets bigger, Ravi Shastri’s language is only going to become bigger. And cricket can be deemed to be moving in the right direction when Shastri is stopped from unleashing his ‘went like a tracer bullet’ stuff.
The IPL is also the fitting answer to all those carping critics who never fail to shout that there is too much of cricket, which makes us to think that there may be more critics shouting that there is more cricket than there is actually more cricket. If you have any problem in comprehending the previous sentence, you have every right to move on to the next paragraph.
With the IPL it is less about cricket and more about everything else that is not about cricket and that includes Ajith Agarkar. Just consider this: You see a batsman hitting a monstrous six and they immediately show you the visual of Shilpa Shetty jumping up and down in her seat animatedly in a simulation of emotion that is otherwise possible for others only when their backsides are literally on fire. And when they show a close-up of the Shetty girl, only those not watching the telecast will let their thoughts still lingered on cricket.
Anyway, if they had wanted your mind to remain focussed on the game they would not have trained the cameras on Shilpa in the first place, instead they would have let you ogle at, say, John Buchanan, fingering his laptop with passion.
The thing about Shilpa is that her knowledge and understanding of the game can be easily filled on the back of 25p postal stamp with some room to spare. You don’t have to believe me. Just ask Shilpa what’s the score, she will break out into teasing titters as if you had just recounted to her a spectacular comic line from Woody Allen’s new movie. I don’t blame Shilpa. All actresses do this all the time. They will giggle and grin even when they are crying. It is fair to surmise that in Bollywood, they don’t let you face the camera unless you have smiled yourself silly in every conceivable occasion including funerals and famines.
Another of Bollywood’s fetish undoubtedly is hugging, a practice that I strongly suspect to be the reason for Kings XI Punjab exit much before the semi-finals of the tournament this year. Whoever had the brainwave to let Preity Zinta play the important role of supporting the team from the sidelines surely will not have any worries about getting through the IIM entrance exams. For simply, he or she does not possess the intelligence to even pass the kindergarten class.
There are any number of ways of enthusing a cricket team, like clapping, whistling, shouting encouragements or even jumping up and down with backside on fire like Shilpa. But for some reasons that are difficult to explain in rational terms Preity Zinta resorted to a plan that involved happily hugging all the players in the dugout whenever the team’s batsmen hit a sixer or four. Now if there is a chance of Preity hugging you, will you stay in the middle playing or begin to queue up in front of her? I fully understand why Punjab batsmen were in a hurry to get out. Somebody like Sreesanth even went to the extent of being injured for most of the part of the tournament and staying inside the dugout just to boost the morale of the team by taking on the responsibility of helping Preity Zinta by being the recipient of her embrace.
See, the last few paragraphs have been entirely about Preity, Shilpa and Bollywood. And that is the beauty of the IPL.
And Lalit Modi, the man who has single-handedly taken on the onerous task of changing the face of cricket from being a mere game that people were passionate about to a mass commercial product which everyone flees away from, promises more innovations in the coming IPL seasons. When Modi speaks you better listen to it carefully, especially because his accent is generally difficult to pick.
Talking of innovations, the strategy breaks, which have been introduced this year, could certainly be tweaked. Already the sponsors, for whose benefit the whole extravaganza has been got up, are complaining that it is not working.
There is actually room for Modi to go the whole hog and hold the cricket in the 10-minute strategy break, while leaving the rest of match time to be filled with TV commercials. This can be a double whammy. One, it can satisfy the sponsors, and two, it can also keep the real cricket enthusiasts happy as they will have less of Ravi Shastri and Rameez Raja in the commentary box.
The 10-minute game can be a four over per side, with the batting team being assumed to play from the 16th over with the score reading 120 for two or some number that is deemed par. Of course, this rule will not apply to the Kolkata Knight Riders, who in a 16-over match can be counted to be all out by the 12th.
Modi can also lure sponsors for dropped catches (‘that is a Sathyam moment of failure’) and dubious run out claims (‘It is an Enron moment of shame’). Quite simply, the possibilities are endless and everyone has already started to wait for the next season of the IPL.
But Modi should know cricket is a game of inviolable traditions. In other words, Preity and Shilpa should stay. At the maximum, he can add Katerina.
(This is my column for the publication this week)