Cheerleaders or cheer queens? Foreigners or Indians? The jury is still out on that but there is no doubt the imports have taken a beating in recent times. Gone are the cheerleading troupes flown in from the United States, and the plunging necklines and the shimmy of miniskirts.
Bangalore Royal Challengers cheerleaders perform prior to the IPL Twenty20 match between Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Swai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on May 11, 2011. AFP PHOTO / Prakash SINGH
they flopped when introduced to India in 2008. In fact, the cheerleaders of the Washington Redskins were the top draw with their choreographed but seductive moves. It was also the edition where Deccan Chargers were remembered more for their cheerleaders. But soon complaints of discrimination filtered in. And then last year, South African cheerleader Gabriella Pasqualotto was sacked for writing in her blog about players misbehaving.
It was a stray incident, feels a former ‘manager’ of cheerleaders. “There were strict instructions from the authorities regarding the movement of cheerleaders,” he said, requesting anonymity. “We were asked to take the cheerleaders on a separate flight, stay in separate hotels and travel in separate buses to the venues so that they could never come in touch with the players.”
Nevertheless, it has prompted a bit of pre-emptive deglamourising from the IPL organisers and the teams respectively. After parties have become rare; and the cheerleaders’ uniforms have become increasingly conformist. Tuesday’s match was a classic example of tradition pitted against half-baked western style. The Deccan Chargers cheerleaders were a far cry from their 2008 predecessors, wearing knee-length tights underneath their hot pants.
They are not nearly as athletic and hardly perform any tumbling or stunts that you normally associate with American cheerleading. Also, the fact that these girls are part of a contingent that performs for more than half the IPL teams in this edition has eroded the uniqueness to IPL cheerleading.
But for the likes of Pune Warriors and Kolkata Knight Riders, it would have been drab. While Kolkata haven’t gone absolutely Indian with the attire, they have ensured at least the Indian girls don them. Their dress has shifted between smart, tight tops with leggings and garish saris with gaudy pom poms.
But the importance of the ‘namaskaram’ however hasn’t been lost. Ands it’s been perfected by the Pune counterparts. Decked in jewellery, dressed in embroidered saris, the cheerleaders were slower in rhythm compared to their Deccan counterparts on Tuesday, but at least they stood out.