“If the beginning is like this you can understand how the tournament will go.”
Indian Premier League (IPL) chief Rajeev Shukla certainly didn’t mean what was implied. After an Opening Ceremony that included an out-of-place Amitabh Bachchan, disastrous performances from Colonial Cousins and Kareena Kapoor, and of course, Ravi Shastri speaking… on the Spirit of Cricket (again!), one couldn’t but empathise with @LalitKModi’s furious tweeting. Commendable performances by Katy Perry, Salman Khan and Prabhudeva were scant consolation given the deplorable production quality on television.
However, the Opening Ceremony safely out of the way, it is time for the games to begin. Nine teams representing cities and regions spread all over the country will play cricketainment over seventy six matches in fifty four days to emulate the feats of Rajasthan Royals in 2008, Deccan Chargers in 2009 and Chennai Super Kings in 2010 and 2011 in winning the IPL.
With the Kochi Tuskers not playing, viewers are spared the sight of their shocking orange and purple uniforms. Also not to be seen from previous editions will be co-owners: mom-to-be Shilpa Shetty and estranged Priety Zinta. Rajasthan Royals will also be without their inspirational captain Shane Warne, with the reins of captain-coach in the hands of freshly-retired Indian legend Rahul Dravid. On the other hand, it remains to be seen as to how much we get to see of the Mallyas, with the good times certainly behind them.
As to the cricket, there is only so much one can expect from the swashbuckling format. Indian fans will be interested in following the exploits of their latest pin-up boy Virat Kohli at Bangalore. Besides, much is expected of new faces Andre Russell (Delhi), Sunil Narine (Kolkata) and Richard Levi (Mumbai). The elusive Michael Clarke (Pune) will eventually feature in the IPL while the rest of the cast and crew take their usual places. Among the teams, the Chennai Super Kings will look to extend their dominance of the last couple of years while there are plenty of pretenders to the throne, Mumbai Indians a perennial favourite among others.
The IPL’s marketing strategy says a lot regarding what can be expected from this edition. Taking the oft-repeated criticism of the IPL being a mere money-creating circus and turning it on its head, the BCCI came up with an ad showing cut outs of prominent crickets indulging in a circus. IPL 5 is going to be yet another glamorous series of stadium parties, and unabashedly so.
Besides, certain elements of the IPL have been Indianized over the years. Given its loud and boisterous image, I am unsure whether for good or worse. So, we will have cheerleaders dancing in sarees to Rabindra Sangeet at Eden Gardens to cheer for the Kolkata Knight Riders and the matches will serve as an ideal Indian family picnic, cousins and aunts in tow. One thing no one needs worry about is atmosphere at the stadiums with a semblance of city-based loyalty now in place. As long as you don’t think too much, and that applies from the commentators to the cricketers to the fans, IPL promises one thing and one thing alone. Entertainment.
That is considering a sense of fatigue doesn’t set in among the viewers. But given the indignant cricket fan’s relief at the end of the national team’s forgettable season, it is likely that the IPL will bring all those eyeballs back to cricket in a tournament where loyalties can easily be switched.