Indian Problematic League’s parallel innings

May 19, 2012

What’s an Indian Premier League (IPL) without controversy?

Lalit Modi, the disgraced creator of the IPL, who was ousted as its chief in 2010 over a series of corruption charges, said IPL is all about “cricket, entertainment and Bollywood”.

But this cocktail is pushing the real game to the backseat, despite the fact that the cricket played during the current IPL season is being touted as the best since the series’ inception in 2008.
Historically cricket-crazy India now finds itself drawn to the frenzy over the ban of belligerent movie superstar Shah Rukh Khan from a stadium. Jamaican cricketer Chris Gayle’s record-smashing performance at the IPL was lost in the brouhaha of the Khan controversy, which itself was overshadowed by a sexual molestation case involving Australian player Luke Pomersbach. And corruption scandals have dogged the glamorous IPL teams, most recently a match-fixing scandal.

The on-and-off-pitch action of the IPL has always hurt so-called traditional Indian sensibilities — be it the ‘sexy’ cheerleaders, the bacchanalian spirit of the after-parties, the controversies surrounding the playboy franchise owners and the players. India’s parliamentarians say the IPL is against the country’s ‘culture’ and is a ‘vulgar display of money and immorality’.

The IPL’s update on the staid colonial game of cricket — faster, bigger-hitting and consumer-orientated — reflects the sensibilities of India’s new middle class millions, who pack the stadiums every night to watch the short season. But its excesses seem to embody conservatives’ worst fears about modern lifestyles and values.

On Twitter, the chorus is as loud. @rajanmahan says, “sleaze, slaps, fixing and gaalis. IPL is truly entertaining !! And revolting !! This certainly is NOT cricket !!” @sachingupta1208 says, “sad to see the state of ipl nd glamour mix up and goof up. wish cricket cud jst be cricket.” @bluediamond108 tweets, “cricket has lost its sporting spirit.controversies are seeping in,like a virus.” @rasherfrienzy says, “#IPL should be banned immediately!”

Perhaps true to Modi’s definition of the IPL, the series is akin to a plot of a Bollywood thriller. Controversies have always dogged the game of cricket and other sports worldwide. But what the IPL needs is better corporate governance and accountability, and an iron hand that can prevent the house from collapsing. And if the shenanigans associated with the Indian Premier League continue, it won’t be long before this game, arguably India’s biggest sports brand, turns into a failed Bollywood movie.

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I would attribute the latest triple controversy surrounding IPL to the hatred Indian psyche generally has towards anything foreign. (Similar like our human body rejecting invasions from foreign germs).

The testimony to the above perhaps is today’s newspaper reports about reaction by Shiv Sena to Khan(s) episode.

I have personally been a victim to this design when I visited India recently (after staying abroad only for 10 years) looking in good hope for a job in media. All the employers (including the one I had previously been employed before moving abroad) chose not to respond to my application for the only reason that my CV (suddenly) sounded more foreign than Indian)

IPL would attract no controversies only if the players (strictly Indian) climb atop a human wall and break pots amidst colorful waters thrown down by cultural-clad girls inside a gated Maharashtrian community.

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