Imagine this: scantily clad women imported from Washington Redskins country gyrating to the beat of percussion-heavy Bollywood music composed by the likes of Vishal-Shekhar and Anu Malik.
None other than the King himself, Shah Rukh Khan, and the pretty Ms Zinta, joining in, along with a
boisterous crowd. Lights, cameras and plenty of action. Pipe dream? Maybe not.
Over the next 45 days or so, we're going to find whether the mindboggling gamble that is the Indian Premier League will end up being a Bollywood style tearjerker for all the people who've pumped in millions, or manage to pull off an incredible coup that will change the dynamics of world cricket forever.
The purists, of course, are having a night marish time imagining how the game's gone from comparatively genteel white-clad five-day affairs (we're talking of the years when words like 'monkeys' and 'weeds' were still, well, 'monkeys' and 'weeds') to one-dayers, day-nighters and coloured clothes (now all quite respectable) to the bizarre mania of T20 in a mere few years. Some see the evolution, others the degeneration of the game.
But like it or not, it's coming to a stadium near you.
The IPL's 'glammest' teams, Bangalore and Kolkata, kick off the event in Bangalore on April 18, 2008, but the match in itself will probably not be a momentous event. The circumstances of the game though, could make it a never-to-be-forgotten moment in our cricketing history.
Based loosely on the professional sports models of baseball, basketball and football, the IPL hopes to make the Indian cricket fan, traditionally loyal to the cause of 'country', often to the point of shrill jingoism, switch his/her loyalties to the cause of an artificially-created team. If you're a Chennai fan therefore, you could be in the weird situation of having to root for a Mattie Hayden and Dhoni together, against a Sehwag-McGrath combine from Delhi. A Hyderabadi could be wondering how to learn to love an Andrew Symonds when he's bashing around the Bhajji-Sachin combine.
Despite our being blasted by billboards and incessant TV ads, this will take some getting used to. It’s been done of course, fan-loyalties in the EPL have been passed on like the family jewels, marriages have been split because couples have divided club loyalties and most importantly, from that all important viewpoint, marketing, the EPL and its spin-offs became a multi-billion pound business. But the Indian cricket fan is a peculiarly peculiar animal. We take our cricket seriously and heap adulation onto our stars when they win and break things when they lose. Cricket is one of those things that passionately unites an otherwise diverse, often divisive nation.
Still, the age of the IPL may be upon us. To see whether fans choose club over country will make for fascinating viewing. Over the next few weeks, HT will bring you all the drama and the dramatis persona from the IPL. Here, in Mind It!, we try and capture the spirit of what could also be a spoofy, goofy, bindaas extravaganza that means everything and nothing, much, perhaps, like instant cricket. Come with us.
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