Modi’s IPL

The IPL is back again, and after 5 seasons, I am losing interest.

Cricket had lost its shine a few years ago. There are no longer days where I sat through 50 overs, scared to move in case my movement triggers some cosmic plane of action and the batsman would lose or they’d miss a catch. Yes, we were heavily superstitious then about cricket.

The IPL came, with Lalit Modi promising us a season of sheer fun. He did what most other people had only been thinking about – combined cricket and Bollywood with a ton of money, threw some glamour parties and you had the IPL. Nobody had thought of league cricket in the world and teams with fancy names like Royal Challengers, Kolkata Knightriders etc were born.

To an outsider, these seemed liked team names from a fantasy league. But then the IPL was no less.

And then Modi disappeared, under a cloud of accusations about corruption and money-laundering.

While I’m against corruption and all its fall-outs, I wonder why people were screaming for his blood at a time when there were so much more serious corruption issues that came to light around that time.

The way I see it, Modi’s corruption affected the already rich and corrupt. The common man, for once, did not lose money in it. Rich people probably lost out on opportunities to make more money. Someone’s girlfriend got a stake in the IPL league, someone else got a team that someone else was supposed to get. BFD. I get to watch the match at the same price, regardless of who owns what.

Modi also has much more serious charges against him. But why did people get so worked up over this?

Is it because the rich people, who have the power to sway decisions, who don’t actually care about his other crimes were shorted this time? They were insulted and hence, he had to go.

Who cares about the common man, who is the biggest source of income for all these people? Who cares if the government that is supposed to help the common man lost crores in another couple of scandals. Minor details.

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The day starts particularly hectic… one those days when you wake up at noon and realise that you have actually wasted half the day and this was one of those days that required daylight to get things done.

The day wears on and at one particular point you feel rather proud that you have gotten so many things done. And then you glance down on the list of things to be done and realise there are only a couple ticked off. And you wonder what on earth you are supposed to do. There are two choices that face a person at this point – either persevere and finish whatever that has to be done, regardless of the time or agree that you won’t really be able to finish anything and knock it off and enjoy this awesome weather the city has decided to taunt you with.

I caught the IPL match live a couple of days ago… at the stadium. Even through the veil of fatigue, it was quite an experience. How did I go so long without ever having set foot in the stadium during the match? I have been there otherwise. Just not during the match! Ridiculous!

What’s more… I got to see Sachin play, so that’s one thing I can cross off the bucket list! The noise, the exhilaration and the Master Blaster’s strokes. I should have been supporting RCB and all that… but when you see Sachin playing, you pretty much forget who you are supposed to be supporting and start cheering for him. The cheerleaders wore their frail legs out, climbing the stage every time he hit a boundary, which was every other ball anyway. The IPL has lost its glamour and it wasn’t the best match nor a memorable one. But it definitely sticks in my head… hot dogs, water, cheering and batons. Maybe I should take up those special box passes the next time I’m offered them.

***

Here is something I just realised… I have barely read the news in the past couple of weeks. I have not opened the NewYorker, The Atlantic or even the Onion. I managed to browse the NYTimes a few times on my phone while waiting for people but I have no been so out of touch with news and I really do miss reading. The debates, the arguments and the wonders. Of course, I know what is happening… surprisingly, thanks to Facebook. But it isn’t the same as analyzing and reading the news.

The burqa in France, the earthquakes in Japan and Delhi, Libya/Yemen and all those places, quirky news articles the Times always put out, silly updates about the Royal Wedding on the Guardian or the Telegraph. I miss being a reporter.

World Cup… and some

So now that the World Cup is finally over, and we have even won that thing… there is a faint hope that we could get back to our normal working lives.

Except, the definition of a normal working life was thrown out of the window a while ago and all that exists now is sheer confusion. My friends, down from various parts of the world, just in time for the World Cup are flabbergasted about how much we turn around our lives for a simple ‘sport’. All these friends are non-Australian. If anyone could understand crazy dedication to watching a sport, it would be the Aussies. Others call it home sickness when we set our alarms to 3 AM to watch a sport… and a sport that lasts for 8 hours. Football lasts for about 3 and then two hours of celebrations and falls in the more ‘acceptable’ realm of wasting-time-for-sports category.

But while it lasted, it was amazing to see every single status message talking about cricket. The Australians got a little quiet after a point and on the day of the final match, there were messages about a footy match that was happening… but for most part, this is the power of social media.

The die-hard cricket fans are already calling me ask what plans for the IPL – the cricket version of the league matches, except we all have crazier names like “Royal Challengers” and “Knight Riders” that make it sound, to the uninitiated, like some archival knight game on Facebook. But nope, this is cricket and it involves the same fantasy level of money those games on Facebook talk about. Or maybe not this time around. I’m exhausted by the World Cup, still reeling with the win and I really don’t give a damn for the next couple of weeks about some local match, even if it involves Bangalore. And there are none of the crazy after parties to talk about, because they want a ‘clean game’. Would IPL have been such a hit if it had not combined the power of Bollywood – the only other thing India genuinely cares about – with the power of cricket?

There were other sponsors for the Kolkata Knight Riders but it was called SRK’s team. Ditto with Punjab and Preity Zinta, Rajasthan and Shilpa Shetty. It was a fantastic concept and I think Lalit Modi deserves credit, even if he made some money on the side and made a few others richer.

And honestly, given all the recent scams, I don’t care if some guy made money off his own scheme and offered contracts to other people. The matches were not fixed, it was targeted as pure entertainment rather than a sport (remember RCB’s cheerleaders?). So if a guy can sell cell phone broadband, stamp papers and worse things which really do affect the infrastructure of a company, a guy selling ownership of a sports team is not really that serious an issue. Particularly since everyone involved made money, including the BCCI, which is stinkingly rich to start with.

Without the frill parties, the cheerleaders and all those other glam things, what would the IPL be but yet another match? Who but core cricket fans would watch it with such enthusiasm?

***
The summer heat is on full blast. Afternoons make it hard to stay inside, though all the body wants is to sleep. My heart weeps every time I see a tree being cut, which is almost every other day, thanks to the metro work. I despair it ever being finished and I dread it being finished.

I heard about a leopard today that had entered someone’s house in a nearby town. While it is sad that the occupants have been driven out temporarily, I was more concerned about the leopard rather than the people. Frantic calls to a couple of people ensured that there was some help on the way and the leopard wouldn’t stoned or shot. Now all I can do is pray that the help reaches in time.

When Bollywood met Cricket

Lalit Modi, whatever his other faults maybe, managed to combine the two biggest brands in India – Bollywood and Cricket.

Did he tweak some rules, do some under the table work for this? Maybe. (I was reading up about him wondering what exact career path the man had taken, and it never has been too clean. Anyway….) But the general public doesn’t really care about it. Infact, all of that might just add more intrigue to it. After all, Bollywood has the scandals of who is sleeping with whom and cricket, every since the match fixing scandal, is used to things like this as well.

And this is also a common man’s dream – all those beautiful women they see on the screen are now smiling at them standing a foot away… So I guess as long as the matches weren’t rigged, most fans will not just care but even forgive the ‘managerial’ issues.

So I guess it was only a matter of time before Sahara entered the picture, and there was “IPL Awards” ceremony. And when that happened, ShahRukh Khan was the most natural choice to host it, along with Karan Johar.

SRK is an entertainer. And a very astute businessman too (yes, KKR lost. But check their endorsements). But the man has molded himself into that exclusive ‘entertainer host’ position. I enjoy watching him any award ceremony… perhaps he is one of the few guys who has the clout to make certain statements and get away with it (Actually, I respect the guy ever since he refused to bow to the Shiv Sena over the My Name Is Khan movie) or the writers figure he can take a little heat, but the script is no longer politically correct. And in an atmosphere (both cricket and bollywood) where everyone is being saccherine sweet, that is such a relief.

He made Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly dress up women, Adam Gilchrist dance, he ragged Yuvraj Singh (that’s pretty much all I saw actually)… and it was fun. (And we’d like to imagine the ragging some of the guys would take in the locker room). As opposed to Bollywood where everyone is polished and tries to speak in english etc etc, cricket has (had?) people who were picked for talent one and are only one developing the pretenses. It is nice to see people from humble origins making it big… remember Yuvraj Singh when he first came? Before his playboy days? Virender Sehwag, who couldn’t speak english. Harbhajan Singh. OF course, that trend is fast changing. Fancy suits, shiny hair, dancing and white shoes.

I do wonder what will be the future of Indian cricket though? I mean… the national team is already using the IPL as an excuse for their pathetic performance in the World Cup. “Parties caused fatigue” apparently. Which is exclusive to Indians alone, the rest of the world played alright.

Haven’t football clubs been doing this forever? Can David Beckham complain about fatigue?

Oh well… considering the amount of money in both these industries and the public appeal, both of them had to come together on an official platform sooner or later. So yeah, it is a larger-than-life, all the money you can blow, all the booze you can drink fiesta which leaves people a little uneasy and extremely hung over when it is over. And makes some people who were in the right time at the right place, extremely rich.

The rest of us.. we watch, and we envy.

Side note: There were quite a few ads of paan (what is that rajnigandha sorts called) while the awards were on. And I notice there are several familiar faces now advertising these things. Have the people gotten cheap or these companies making so much money that they can hire these notable names for their ads now?
And Nirma found a new girl.. and she is no where as cute or hot as Sonali Bendre. Oh I miss those old ads!! The Liril girl dancing under the waterfall – most of them made in big in Bollywood, starting with Juhi Chawla. Sonali Bendre trying out bracelets in Nirma. That little girl in a white frock circling around and around for the Nirma Washing Powder (I even remember the jingle). And the Diary Milk ad – where the girl dances out into the field to hug the blushing batsman when he hits a six.
Most ads these days aren’t half as interesting. The cutest I’ve seen is the Tanishq one. Some don’t make sense. Some look good so you don’t mind that they don’t make sense. Some just have big names. And some have asses like the Reebok one. I did like the concept… of course, today I noticed that they showed only the shoes, no more butts.

Song of the day: aahun ahun – Love AAj Kal