This one is an unplayable doosra, leaving all stumped. The 40 regular cheerleaders (plus the 10 Ukrainians in the back-up team) for this year’s Indian Premier League, are all white.
In contrast, in South Africa, from where all the IPL’s 40 regular cheergirls hail, cheerleaders at both Rugby Union and Pro20 cricket matches comprise women of different ‘colour’.
Interestingly, there could be a bit of history behind the IPL’s selection of the cheerleaders this year. In 2008, the last time the IPL took place in India, one of two British black cheerleader in Mohali claimed she was called “a nigger”.
Apparently, this time, the organisers have decided to play safe. Officially though, the League maintained that colour was irrelevant. IPL vice-chairman Niranjan Shah told HT, “The IPL doesn’t go by skin colour and doesn’t believe in racial differences.”
An official from DNA, the central entertainment agency handling the cheerleaders this time, said the same thing. And then added, “However, it is always better to avoid racial issues than be sorry later.” Off the record, India’s reputation for overtly preferring “fair” skin to “dark” has preceded it.
In South Africa, despite their history (or perhaps because of it) there seems to be no difference of this kind. Ask Yolambi Beneke, a former cheerleader who is now managing the public relations office of Free State Rugby Union in South Africa and their cheerleaders, the Cheetahs. “We have cheerleaders of all colours. The criteria of our selection is, if you can dance, have a good body and personality, you are in. Colour is not an issue.”
India unfortunately, has some way to go.