Half an hour before the start of the Bangalore Royal Challengers’ match against the Deccan Chargers, rookie medium-pacer Vinay Kumar sidled up to Javagal Srinath, the former India and Karnataka fast bowler, clearly hoping to pay his respects to one of his idols.
But, what caught the eye of match referee Srinath were the bright red shoes that Vinay was wearing. An animated discussion followed, and you can be sure the topic of discussion wasn’t what line and length to bowl.
While Srinath might just have been curious about the new shoes Vinay sported, you might well hear more about it if Vinay, or indeed any of the other 15-plus Nike-contracted athletes appear in colour co-ordinated shoes in the IPL. The Air Zoom Yorker, which has fast become a popular boot among fast bowlers, was originally produced in traditional black and white, but has been reborn in blue and red, especially for the IPL.
This tournament has always had an accent on fun and glamour, and it remains to be seen whether the organisers will take a closer look at the coloured shoes. The International Cricket Council is very clear on the issue. The Code of Conduct has a section on apparel, and this is what the relevant portion states: “Shoes and boots to have predominantly plain white upper, tongue (inside and out) and laces. Soles to be predominantly white, off white, tan or natural leather in colour.”
The ICC, however, are renowned killjoys. The IPL may be different. For Nike, however, this is nothing new. When they launched their flagship Air Jordan shoe, specifically designed for basketball legend and then Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, the NBA threatened to ban the shoe in its first year in 1984, as it was black and red and did not comply with existing laws.
Another Nike athlete, Andre Agassi, famous for his fluorescent T-shirts, flowing mane and bright pink cycling shorts, went to the extent of skipping Wimbledon three years in a row, as he was in no mood to comply with their staid rules on white-only clothing. It’s another matter that Agassi changed his mind in later years and went on to win the coveted title.
Over the years cricket has been reluctant to embrace change of any kind. That has altered a bit with the IPL and people are testing the waters.