“You watching the IPL?” My ten-year-old daughter asked me with evident disbelief. ‘I thought you hated it.’
“I do, I do,” I said. “That’s why I am watching it. To write about the ways in which it annoys me.”
She shrugged, and turned away, staggered by how infantile adults can be. Well, I tell you, the things I have to do for the sake of this job.
But, you know what? It was such a relief. Such a relief to watch cricket (well, not cricket, but more of that in a minute) in which I didn’t have to withstand the despair of India being decimated. Such a relief to see the enthusiasm at the ground – exemplified, in particular, by Nita Ambani’s frenzied flag waving. My, that flag was all botoxed up, wasn’t it?
Advertisers may not be as keen on IPL 5 as they were on previous editions, but can a viewer complain? Such a relief to be rid of those creepy crawlie ads along the left and right and bottom of a screen, leaping into the breach of a sneeze or spit break.
It was all utterly enjoyable. The Indian players were all fit: no ankles giving away, no concussions, no complaints about an overly loaded, burdensome calendar. Moreover, as Virender Sehwag put it some days ago, they were “raring to go”. They must have been. This is the most important period of their professional year.
No, no, I didn’t mean the money (who doesn’t love more money, especially poor cricketers with so little shelf life?), but the fact of playing without fear of genuine failure. What a way to put behind the performances of what MS Dhoni called an up and down year (lost 0-4 in Tests against England; lost 0-4 in Tests against Australia; the minor matter of not making it to the finals from a three-team pool in the ODI tournament in Australia; and the even more minor matter of not making it to the final of the four-team <Asia Cup>).
Sachin Tendulkar, having abdicated the captaincy of Mumbai Indians to Harbhajan Singh (where, but in the IPL, can you imagine Harbhajan as a captain?), prowled pantherishly in the field, and smiled while doing so. Harbhajan bowled in a televised match. It made me nostalgic. Suresh Raina, full of aplomb and swagger, showed us again why playing cricket (which is to say, playing for India against Australia in Australia) should not be confused with being an IPL bully.
It was a terrific spectacle; it was wonderful entertainment. (Although, if you ask me, I’d much rather watch The Chariots of Fire again, but who am I to talk?) Only, don’t call this cricket. Please. How does Buck Buck Bang Bang sound?
(Soumya Bhattacharya is the author of two internationally acclaimed books on cricket: You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Dad’s the Word, his new book on fatherhood, will be published later this month. You can reach him on twitter @soumya1910.)