(Published in Sify.com on May 16, 2012, retrieved from http://www.sify.com/sports/ipl-is-the-wwe-of-the-cricketing-world-news-columns-mfqlISgcdbg.html?ref=false)
By Ogle Bunkraker
The Delhi Daredevils sealed their place in the playoffs with one of the most convenient margins this season’s IPL has seen – with 5 wickets and six balls to spare. The unpredictability of the last few games was getting pretty predictable. No wonder one of the Hindi channels decided to jump in with their sting operation. But, of course, all the interviews on hidden camera “were doctored” – as usual. And of course, nothing is more incriminating than a claim that secretly acquired footage was doctored.
Five players have been suspended, two gamblers have been arrested, and an inquiry has begun. But honestly, did any of us seriously believe the IPL was above board? With that kind of money and that spate of regular last-ball finishes and turnarounds?
For some time, IPL was where retired players went to make money. I mean, Azhar Mahmood plays in the IPL. Having decided to send out some kind of message by snubbing all the Pakistani cricketers who were any good a couple of seasons ago, the IPL owners go and choose a player everyone in Pakistan has forgotten. Why bring in someone from the wilderness and pay him a packet? Well, who cares about logic in the IPL, anyway?
Getting back to this match-fixing business. It has all the elements of a murky noir film. “Honey traps” (as we so charmingly refer to, umm, hired seductresses), athletes (if you can call them that), businessmen and -women, filmstars, plus the burlesque of the IPL. You know, the burlesque that comes with the cheerleaders, the “experts”, and one woman who seems to be both – Isa Guha.
What I find more intriguing than the on-field action is the variety of accents the men in the studio go with when they react to Isa Guha’s comments. There’s fake American, fake British, fake Australian, and some bizarre combination of all-of-the-above, to top off her own barely comprehensible accent.
And when everyone runs out of conversation, they move over to a random celebration of Incredible India – like a dahi handi demonstration, with the pot filled with a noxious-looking blue substance instead of dahi. Not that it brought the Mumbai Indians a whole lot of luck in that match, which they spent devising new ways to drop Chris Gayle.
Yes, as I was saying earlier, when this match-fixing scandal has all the elements of noir, why not make the most of it? Does it really matter whether the matches are fixed or not, as long as the audience is kept out of the loop?
For one, we get to watch a game that’s far more entertaining than it would be without the fixing. And for another, we’re talking about a tournament which has sexed up cricket so much that its IPL avatar might as well be labelled the WWE of sport. There are the aspiring models whose interviewing skills, cricket knowledge and attire are as minimalist as could be. There are the cheerleaders who pump themselves through the same routine irrespective of which Bollywood song is playing. And there are the Bollywood stars.
In the middle of all this, is the game itself of any consequence? Do we all really care whether black money is being turned white through the IPL, or whether players are making more money than they should be through their lucrative contracts?
Apparently, there are 4 million tweets about the IPL – well, that was at last count, before the scandal broke out. With an audience that’s so hooked to this blitzy version of the game that once stretched itself over nine to eleven days, maybe the organisers should simply market the IPL as a suspense thriller.
With all that money and glamour involved, the IPL matches could get even more exciting if the fixing were to be handled properly, and the entertainment factor maximised. So, we had a fan worshipping Ganguly’s feet last year. Next year, we may have a team-owner, or actress, or both, stomping on to the crease to slap the captain of her team. We could have Sidhu padding up to go out and bat, only to be told his place is in the studio. We could have Anna Hazare sitting in on a fast at the Wankhede Stadium. Then, maybe we could sit through all those godawful ads.