I see the great Cricket by Karan Johar extravaganza has been drawing boatloads of criticism. You know… the Indian Premier League? I suppose it should rightfully be called the Cricket All Stars for the BCCI Hates Subhash Chandra Movement or the This Money is All Mine Beeyotch Cricket Club or something of similar, especially because KJo’s involvement in the whole thing seems limited to him being best friends with two of the team owners (maybe three? Vijay Mallya? No? Hmm, yeah, KJo would never let a friend of his go out in public with that kind of bling around his neck).
But come on! Cheerleaders (from the Washington Redskins squad – obviously Mallya’s contribution to the great game of cricket) and a team called *snicker* Knight Riders? It practically screams the KJo brand of “cool”. I’m surprised The Hoff isn’t singing the league anthem. Which should totally be Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Actually, The Hoff singing Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham? That I would watch. Hell, that I’d pay money for!
And money is what lies at the center of this whole thing, isn’t it? Who’s making what and why and wherefore and when and by what means and how and where does it all go and why does it make the little girls cry? It’s all just a matter of time before all this horrible money business ruins cricket forever and crushes everybody’s spirits until mankind’s faith in all sport will be destroyed forever, amen. Coz a fat paycheck and a pink neon outfit (oh wait, that’s the ICL huh?) are obviously worse than betting and fixing as demonstrated by… um, the English soccer clubs? Practically every American sport? Huh.
To be fair, a lot of people are cribbing for noble reasons – the Twenty20 phenomenon is apparently going to ruin cricket in some way that I don’t understand and, frankly, don’t care to understand because… well, it’s cricket and we have no love lost between us. I know! I’m a terrible person and there’s a special corner of hell reserved just for me. I just hope it doesn’t come equipped with a plasma screen playing cricket 24/7.
It might be the lamest money making exercise in the history of world sport, but it’s obviously bringing a great deal of joy to a great many people. Maybe that’s not you and maybe these are not people whom you consider to be “true” fans of the sport but let’s face it – your approval isn’t necessary.
Besides, if you are going to make tons of money through the cynical manipulation of people, then you might as well do it by making people happy, you know what I mean? It’s not like any of these people are dealing drugs or blowing people up.
Which is why I’m struck by this petition to “make cricket watchable again“. There’s been so much ink spilled on how the IPL is really this great big cattle market where players are bought and sold (wait until the trading starts. Ooh, great hairy fistfuls of fur will fly!) that I’m surprised by how little anyone’s really talked about what’s at stake here except in the most general of terms: Indian eyes.
Those eleventy gazillion dollars that everyone’s spending and taking? It’s all based on the fact that Indians will watch those games. Probably other people too but let’s talk Indians here coz I don’t know if they’re watching this in Australia or England or wherehaveyou. But I do know my mom and dad are watching it (and my dad never watches television) and my mom cusses out the TV something fierce when she talks about those ads that cut into her cricket time. I thought she was exaggerating (I’ve seen invasive ads in India before, how bad could it be?) but Raja Sen’s article makes me think otherwise:
ESPN-Star started the trend of using every single break between overs to push in a commercial or two, and we soon got used to that. Ten Sports and Sony worked the envelope even more aggressively, and began to routinely cut off commentators mid-sentence. And now this, where advertisements are repeated with such nauseating constancy they make you want to shoot an otherwise adorable pug, or attack any hair-dye buyer with a pair of shears. And we’re not even going to the horrible production values the channel is flaunting for the best cricketing circus ever.
Of the million and one controversies that have dogged the IPL since it was conceived in the angry halls of the BCCI, this is perhaps the one issue that struck a chord with me. Not because of my mom’s interrupted viewing pleasure, but because it’s A) disrespectful, B) stupid and C) par for the course.
It’s disrespectful and stupid because if you’re planning to make mega bucks off millions of people then the last thing you want to do is not put their wants first and center. How long do you think it’s going to take some enterprising Indian to figure out that Tivo would make a killing in India given this sorry state of affairs and then where will you all be? (Hey, you, I thought of that idea first! I demand a cut!) So, instead, why wouldn’t you just do what every other sports broadcaster in the world does – give the fans what they want to watch and control the ad time. In fact, seeing as how you’ve already borrowed cheerleaders from American football, why don’t you borrow a few more of their ideas and stage something like the Superbowl ads? Maybe you could make more money off it! (Hey, you, I thought of that idea first! I demand a cut!)
And it’s par for the course because Indian TV works without any rhyme or reason. Shows come on air, go off, come back, go on interminably, even Idols get recycled – as and when they like, however they like it. I’ve been trying to make sense of it for years now but I have no clue what’s going on or why people stand for it.
PS – all those people moaning about the death blow those cheerleaders dealt Indian culture with their shapely tushies? Here’s a little video for you, approprately titled Naughty Naughty, starring the son of a Congress chief minister and the daughter of two (count ’em two!) BJP MPs and national icons. Chockfull of Indian culture, they are.